Undergraduate Student Government Tempe Vice President of Services-elect Logan Miller has decided to leave his position, to which he was elected last month. He cited personal reasons as his cause for departure.
"I had originally decided not to run, but I got asked by my friend Marcus (Chormicle) to run with him, and I thought it was a good idea at the time," Miller said. "But I wasn't cognizant of what I had already decided and what the state of my mental health was."
Miller's departure highlights the many vacancies present within USG, even a month after elections in which they emphasized student engagement. Miller said low wages and long hours can lead to vacancies and low retention.
The positions on each campus range from his vacated vice presidency to chiefs of staff. Applications for the positions were put out last week on USG's Facebook page and some interviews were conducted Monday, according to USG Downtown President-elect Aly Perkins.
Directors and intern positions are those in which students must apply and be hired by the executives. For a senator position, students have to be elected — but if elections pass and the seat isn't filled, then the executive ticket hire them.
Miller ran as vice president of services on President-elect Allison Sorgeloos' ticket, saying he felt he could make a difference on campus. But he left the position this week because of the time commitment and low pay, things he said would make it difficult to fulfill his duties.
Miller said he has spent a significant amount of time with USG, an experience he enjoyed. But he said the amount of time he spent there coincided with him neglecting his schoolwork, which led to his grades slipping.
"I work two jobs including student government so my grades have gone down," Miller said. "My entire life I have wanted to go to college and by seeing my grades suffer and not being able to participate in class fully, ... it was just a lot of factors going into this decision."
As Miller is financially independent, he said the root of the vacancy problem is the low paychecks received by USG members.
"I think it's unfortunate that there are vacancies, but I will say that, personally, I believe that student government employees should be paid more," Miller said. "Because of the work hours, they are currently getting paid less than minimum wage and they are still expected to have an hourly requirement. I think that prevents students from being a part of student government."
Student government members are paid via stipends dispersed in twice-monthly checks. At USGD, for example, the president is given $7,000 while the vice presidents, safety escort and Bike Co-op directors are given $5,000. Directors make $2,500 and senators make $1,350, according to a letter obtained by The State Press from the Office of the Dean of Students sent to USGD.
Each campus decides their own stipends in conversations between the Council of Presidents and USG members.
Jackson Dangremond, the USGD president, said the University aims to keep the stipends the same amounts across each campus, but they still have full control over deciding their stipend amounts.
"It starts at the COP level, if there are talks of pay," Dangremond said. "From there the president and the administration will look together at the operations budget, which is where our salaries come from, and they determine if an increase is possible."
Ryan Boyd, a former USGD vice president of policy, said the stipends are there to help students out, not to be a living wage.
"Yeah, it's not exactly the highest paid thing," Boyd said. "But the fact is that, really, the stipends were more matched to help people try to stick around."
Although the money isn't a lot, USG rewards people more with experience than money, he said.
"It is an underpaid position, but the thing is substance," Boyd said. "We haven't ever had really anyone that wanted to use the pay as a 'get rich quick scheme.' No part of government service is like that — even the president of the United States."
Former USGT president and 2016 alumnus Isaac Miller said although USG is big commitment, it's really about caring for the students on campus rather than the pay.
"You don't do student government to get paid," Miller said. "If that's your motivation then you should just drop out. It's a real virtue to say no to something that you realized you don't want to do instead of overcommitting."
USGT Vice President of Policy-elect John Gimenez said since Logan Miller was elected by students, there must be a two-thirds majority vote from the senate to appoint someone to fill his role. The USGT executive ticket ran unopposed in the 2017 ASASU elections.
He said Miller didn't feel like he could serve the student body to the best of his ability.
Undergraduate Student Government Downtown has more vacant positions than Tempe. Only two people were elected out of 12 seats, said Aly Perkins, the USGD president-elect. She said after the election cycle, many seats have to be hired through the same process as non-elected positions.
"The senators are elected by the students from their college but in order to elect people, you have to have people run," Perkins said. "So because this year has been weak, in the sense that only two people were elected out of 12 seats, we have to go out of our way to find people that are interested in being hired."
Perkins attended new student orientation and tabled in an attempt to spark new students' interest in student government.
Both Boyd and Perkins said the amount of vacant USG positions is unusual compared to previous years.
Boyd said this stems from a lack of student knowledge of what USG does.
"I think a lot of times, especially for the general positions in the senate, people don't know what they do," Boyd said. "There have been a lot of people that have had assumptions about the senate just kind of doing nothing and not having major visibility."
He said students also don't understand the purpose of student government on ASU campuses.
"I think on a general level, there is a lack of real understanding of what they do and thinking 'why do that when you could do so many other things at ASU' — whether it is to throw yourself into your studies or join Greek Life," Boyd said. "So it's a tough sell."