Tripod Editorial: Student Leaders Shouldn’t Be Paid

At Trinity, among other institutions, the notion has, occasionally, been raised that students should receive compensation for those positions of leadership that they elect to undertake. Indeed, at various times it has been suggested that service on the Tripod or within the elected Student Government Association merits compensation. Compensation for positions of student leadership ultimately does little to incentivize better dedication and performance. 

 While no motion is presently on the table, the Tripod thought it fit to address the matter in consideration of Gillian Reinhard’s article this week, which details student compensation practices at other NESCAC newspapers. There is no doubt that students at Trinity College undertake a variety of leadership roles and invest countless hours for those positions. But does compensation really have an impact on an individual’s dedication and productivity in the college environment? 

As Ms. Reinhard’s article demonstrates, the perils of creating a compensation program for student clubs are great. The Tripod is able to produce the product it does each week because it dedicates the entirety of its budget to the costs of printing and development. For instance, in a conversation with an editor at the Bate’s Student, the Tripod learned that their paper had to switch to a bi-weekly publication because of high compensation costs for students involved with the paper. Many other NESCAC papers also operate on a bi-weekly system. College weekly’s, it seems, are becoming a dying breed. Despite not being compensated, the Tripod sustains a quality of work similar to, or even equivalent to, those of our peers at other schools who are paid for their efforts. Many of the afflictions that challenge other college newspapers—lack of writers, lack of knowledge regarding the journalistic process, lack of layout experience—seem present still, whether compensated or not. 

A lack of compensation is by no means a reflection of our value toward our staff. Their contributions are immense and important. It is often repeated that compensation is viewed in the employment world as indicative of value. If that were the case, then how would one examine their value in relation to the minimal compensation that could be afforded to student leaders in any capacity (at most one could envision a thousand or so dollars as a semesterly stipend)? It could hardly be said that $1,000 for an entire, three-month semester is an adequate representation of the value of the important work that student leaders do on our campus. Indeed, if one puts just fifteen hours a week into a student leadership position, we would quickly exceed that figure. 

The answer, then, seems to be to simply maintain the continued strategy at Trinity of leaving leadership positions uncompensated. Some may argue, not incorrectly, that after our departure from our repose neath’ the elms, we will receive compensation for the hours we invest as we enter the work world. Even so, there are innumerable opportunities as we mature into our roles as adults where our actions and efforts go unrewarded through purely monetary compensation. 

Service on civic committees, such as a town council or a school committee, or within parent-teacher associations, are all uncompensated. This fact, however, does not denigrate the significance of their positions or the import of the work they undertake. Without the volunteerism apparent in these important positions, our nation’s towns and cities would suffer. It is in these organizations, absent compensation, that some of the most important democratic work is done on the local level. 

The Tripod would suggest that we should view our positions as an important contribution to Trinity College. Much like civic committees, editing a student newspaper, serving in elected student office or leading a community service club, too, can be a rewarding experience for which compensation, however alluring, is simply unnecessary. 



Brendan W. Clark '21 is the current Editor-in-Chief of the Trinity Tripod, Trinity College's student newspaper.

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