Letter from the Editor: Open letter to ASWC

Allison Cohen, Editor-in-Chief

The Whitman Wire is critical to delivering campus news, employing over 50 student reporters, photographers, illustrators, production associates and editors.

However, ASWC is currently planning on holding The Wire’s stipend budget at $20,000, approximately half of the pay that past editorial boards have received, while the pay for other clubs’ leaders largely remained constant from last year. 

All non-editorial staff at The Wire are paid hourly minimum wage from the club’s annual budget. Editorial staff are paid through stipends which come out of the ASWC honorarium. The honorarium goes towards paying student stipends for media organizations, the Power and Privilege Symposium leaders, ASWC positions, Whitman Events Board (WEB) and members of various committees. Editorial stipends have historically been comparable to hourly minimum wage based on an estimation of hours worked over the course of the semester. However, stipends are not calculated based on minimum wage.

At the beginning of my term as editor-in-chief of The Wire, I was handed a budget that did not include editorial board stipends. I was informed by the previous publisher that we had not yet requested stipends from ASWC, only the main budget. She had asked ASWC repeatedly if she was expected to include stipends in the budget request; she was told not to. 

In the next several meetings, I was told that past Wire leadership had been informed of, and had consented to major cuts to our stipends. The former ASWC President claimed, in an email to The Wire on Oct. 2, 2021 that “the people in your position before you were informed of and consented to this change.”

“Former publisher Ella Meyers and I were not privy to, nor did we consent to any of these changes being made to the editorial board stipends,” former editor-in-chief Alasdair Padman told The Wire

In sum, ASWC’s honorarium was cut by 41% this semester. ASWC claimed that The Wire was facing cuts as part of an overall decline, due in part to COVID-related challenges and in the service of creating new stipend positions for other organizations to ensure that more students were compensated for their work. 

However, ASWC did not make equitable changes. The vast majority of these cuts were taken from Wire editorial board positions. 

The honorarium funds 124 stipends; 58 of these stipends did not change between spring and fall 2021. There were 30 new stipends created this semester. 

Of those that changed, three positions on the Bon Appetit Advisory Committee were reduced by 26%. The Power and Privilege Symposium Marketing Director’s stipend was reduced by 16%. Every other non-Wire position that saw their pay change received an increase in their stipend. For instance, both quarterlife editors’ pay increased by 42%. All WEB positions, with the exception of the Chair, increased by 13%. The position of Committee Member for the President’s Budget Advisory Committee increased by 36%. 

The ASWC Executive Council’s compensation did not change between spring and fall of 2021. 

In total, ASWC increased their spending on non-Wire stipends, allocating an extra $13,950 as compared to spring 2021. Funds allocated to The Wire were reduced by $14,100 from spring 2021. Compensation for each Wire editorial board position was reduced by 50% or more. 

The Wire provides vital services for our campus: keeping the community informed, holding the administration accountable and employing over 50 students in paid jobs that prepare them for life after Whitman. We understand that ASWC is also facing losses, but other student organizations either did not significantly change or saw increases in their pay. ASWC chose to make non-equitable changes, placing the burden of the cuts on a single organization: ours. 

In short, we cannot afford to put in the amount of work that goes into producing The Wire without being adequately compensated for our labor. The work that The Wire does has not changed, therefore we deserve to be compensated similarly to our predecessors. We ask that ASWC grant us the funding we need to fairly compensate our employees, in accordance with their stated goals. We also ask for flexibility in regards to ASWC Senate bylaw Article 5, Section C which states, “Once approved, salaries take effect the following fiscal year and may not be adjusted until the budgeting process for that fiscal year.”

We, the members of the editorial board, are committed to serving the rest of the semester. However, if we do not receive full compensation for the whole academic year, the entirety of the board pledges to resign for the spring 2022 semester. 

Allison Cohen ’22, Editor-in-Chief

 

Co-Signed:

Renny Acheson ‘22, Publisher

Rosa Woolsey ‘23, News Editor

Abby Malzewski ‘23, News Editor

Lily Buller ‘22, Illustration Editor

Zac Bentz ‘23, Campus Life Editor

Jaime Fields ‘23, Campus Life Editor

Bhavesh Gulrajani ‘23, Feature Editor

Rachel Husband ‘24, Humor Editor

Vlad Voinich ‘22, Chief Copy Editor

Mia Graham ‘24, Podcast Editor

Kasey Moulton ‘24, Podcast Editor

Issabella Zito ‘23, Production Editor

Isabella Buchter ‘23, Production Editor

Koketso Masenya ‘23, Web Editor

Bridget Kennedy ‘23, Photography Editor

Scout Hutchinson ‘22, Managing and Opinion Editor