It’s not the White House, but it’ll do: SGA president receives housing stipend

Ah, the sweet release of a $3,000 housing discount.

Every Student Government Association president from this year, starting with the 89th administration, forward will receive a $3,000 credit per semester off their university housing costs.

But it doesn’t stop there, when this $6,000 stipend is added to the compensation of about $7,000 a year, the current president – given no changes – and all subsequent presidents net approximately $13,000 per year from the university.

SGA President Franklin Patterson said he was told by Corey Gray, his predecessor for the 2017-2018 school year, the creation of this stipend was something he had been working on before he left office. SGA university-wide advisor Boyd Beckwith, University Housing Director Randy Brown and former Vice President for Student Affairs Douglass Covey were also a part of the conversation.

Beckwith said that due to Georgia State’s consolidation with Georgia Perimeter College, it was necessary to have a president that was accessible to the most students.

“It really came out of the consolidation on how we can assure that no matter what campus the president comes from they would have a base of operation on the Atlanta campus, [where the majority of the students they serve are],” Beckwith said.

He also confirmed that Patterson was the first president to receive it but didn’t request it. Overall, it was decided based on the desire to aid the president in their duties and the program will continue until the university decides to suspend it.

“Oftentimes they are on campus late at night,” he said. “This just makes it much easier for them to be more available to their constituents.

Patterson said the group moved toward this because they thought the SGA president should have the opportunity to stay on campus to understand the residential side of student issues. The only students who receive a stipend for housing separate from Patterson are Resident Assistants and other students employed by Housing. Athletes and other students on specific scholarships also receive housing, but that’s not classified as a stipend.

“This was my first year living on campus and it’s been a really unique experience,” Patterson said. “There are a lot of benefits to living on campus.”

However, SGA has intended to keep this information out of the public’s eye for fear that it would be a main incentive for future candidates. Patterson himself wasn’t aware of the housing stipend until after he won the election.

Beckwith said that the most important part is that, just like any other student organization, stipends and pay aren’t the focus of the recruiting process.

“Does it change who’s going to run if it’s more because of the housing than it is because they want to serve their fellow students?” he said.

Patterson knows getting paid helps him allot more time for his presidential duties but doesn’t want to see the day that anyone goes for the job solely for the money – something he said he certainly didn’t do.

“This is all fine and good … but when those benefits are promoted up front, you run into the problem of people doing this for selfish reasons,” Patterson said.

The stipend is strictly the discount, with no other housing benefits provided. Depending upon what housing option the president chooses, the final cost could change.

For example, Patterson said if they decide to room with multiple people their housing would be entirely free. But, if they opt for more privacy and space, they will need to pay the remainder that the $3,000 stipend didn’t cover.

Patterson opted for the second option and pays approximately $1,400 to stay at the University Lofts.

Any dorm building is available for this option. However, the president does not gain any special privilege when it comes to selecting which option to stay in. He or she will have to complete the dorm application and waitlist the same as any other student.

The Signal reached out to Corvias for more information and then was told to speak to University Housing on specific cases such as this one. A call to Housing and an email was sent Natalie Bonner, associate to the director, to set up a meeting, but no response was received.

After two days with no response, The Signal went in person to schedule a meeting and was told to email, but since that had already been done, Bonner assisted in scheduling a meeting for Monday, Feb. 25.

On Monday, an email was received to reschedule the meeting to Tuesday. At the Tuesday meeting, Brown would not answer questions because the exact questions were not given in advance, and he did not want to give answers that would violate FERPA, claiming that he didn’t want to speak to a specific person (Patterson’s) situation.

FERPA, the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act, generally applies to release of academic information of students – not university policies on presidential stipends.

The Signal was then told to submit questions and that it would take roughly 48 hours.

Following that, The Signal received an email on Wednesday by Brown that stated “[I had] a few unanticipated things come up. So I anticipate not being able to provide a response tomorrow. I will try to update you on Friday where I am with responding.”

On Friday, an email at around 10 a.m. asked Brown when the questions would be in and asked to be directed to someone else if possible. A call was made to the office at 4:32 p.m., and the recipient said he had stepped out of the office for the day.

From Feb. 20 to March 4, The Signal worked to contact Brown for responses to questions regarding the credit and hasn’t received the answers to them, with Brown sending an email on Monday, March 4 stating that he was working to get the answers and apologizing for not getting them sooner. It was, however, easy to get the exact same questions answered by Beckwith and Patterson.

Even when first asked about the stipend, Beckwith said, “That’s not a secret.”

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