The purpose of university student councils, in theory, is to give a voice to the students and representation to the administration of the university. Most also act as the governing body for all school clubs, and provide student-oriented events and services. I personally would like to thank the Feds Used Books store for selling me countless textbooks for half the price that some poor soul paid two semester ago.
While student councils do some great things, it doesn’t take long to find their criticisms online. Just try to do a search for the University of Waterloo’s Federation of Students (“Feds”) on our subreddit and take a look at the results. Here is a snippet of the titles from the top posts:
- Why do you hate FEDS? (61 comments)
- Can we just get rid of FEDs? (70 comments)
- Good job Feds election /s (16 comments)
We get a similar feeling when we search for the University of Toronto’s student union, UTSU:
- UTSU Fraud cover-up (119 comments)
- How to disband UTSU? (74 comments)
- An honest question: What does the UTSU do? (31 comments)
Why is there so much disdain for these organizations which are composed of our fellow students who are working in our best interest? That is a question well beyond the scope of this post, but if you feel like spending your evening debating it is an excellent question to ask on your school’s subreddit or OMG UW equivalent.
A surprising number of students (by no fault of their own) are unaware that some of the student council fees they pay go towards paying the people in the organization. The part I want to focus on is the salaries that the executives of these organizations are making. Seeing as we all pay for these salaries as part of out tuition, I believe that we should be aware as to where our money is going.
Now, keep a couple things in mind:
- These are full-time, year long positions. The people in these positions are delaying their graduation to provide a service to the student body.
- I found the most recent salary numbers I could, but not all are for the 2015 year. You can see my list of sources below if you want to check them out.
- Due to how some financial statements were laid out, some salaries required making an educated guess based on Total Executive Salaries divided by Number of Executives.
- If you see a mistake and can provide a source I will gladly update the numbers.
Here are the salaries/stipends provided to the top level (President or equivalent) executives for the largest schools in the country:
These numbers include all benefits.
Note that these salaries are comparable to the rest of the executive teams – all schools have between 4-6 people on the executive council that are getting paid the same amount as the president. Without a doubt, this graph shows that the Waterloo FEDs executives are compensated higher than their counterparts at other schools, though all schools seem to ensure their student counsel executives are comfortable during their tenure.
I hesitate to show this next graph, as it may not be a fair comparison. Each school has a different way of reporting incidental fees and this will definitely effect how the fees are collected. For example, I believe that the budget for all clubs at Waterloo supported by Feds is lumped together in the Feds fees, whereas at other school there may be separate fees associated with different clubs. Nevertheless, here are the fees paid each semester by each full time student associated with their student council:
My list of sources can be found in this Excel file. Call me out if something is wrong!