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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

VUceptors vote in favor of award-style compensation

If approved, the Residential Colleges budget for the 2024-25 academic year will include a $500 award for each student VUceptor who completes fall orientation leader training.
VUceptors+pose+for+a+photograph+on+move-in+day%2C+as+photographed+on+Aug.+20%2C+2023.+%28Hustler+Multimedia%2FBarrie+Barto%29
Barrie Barto
VUceptors pose for a photograph on move-in day, as photographed on Aug. 20, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Barrie Barto)

VUceptors voted on Oct. 5 in favor of award-style compensation from Residential Colleges for the 2024-25 academic year. If approved, the Residential Colleges budget for the 2024-25 academic year will include a $500 award for each student VUceptor who completes fall orientation leader training — which spanned five days and exceeded 48 hours in Fall 2023.

The vote came after internal discussion over the past year regarding pay for student VUceptors. VUcept is a student organization supported by Residential Colleges that organizes first-year move-in, CommonVU Orientation and the Vanderbilt Visions program. Student VUceptors lead the nine-week-long Visions program alongside faculty VUceptors and undergo Fall Orientation Leader Training prior to first-year move-in. 

Last March, the “Future of VUcept Committee” was formed within VUcept in response to growing sentiment that VUceptors should be compensated for their work. VUceptors lack the usual autonomy of student organizations and perform hours of work on behalf of the university for free, while their faculty VUceptor counterparts receive $2,500 stipends. Student VUceptors received $250 stipends until the 2008-09 academic year when VUcept voted to dissolve the stipend for fear of students joining the organization for pay rather than passion. 

Seniors Sophia Podolsky, VUcept president, and Michael Peck, VUcept vice president, said at the beginning of the semester, VUceptors and Residential Colleges staff were under the impression that VUceptors could only be compensated as student employees, which would require VUcept to disband as a student organization and become an official arm of the university.

“From the start of our conversations in March, Residential Colleges staff and administration emphasized that the final decision on this issue should fall to the student organization members. However, we were told that any decisions we made regarding compensation had to be made before the budget submission deadline of Oct. 6,” Podolsky and Peck said in a joint statement to The Hustler. 

Podolsky and Peck said they scheduled the Oct. 5 meeting to allow for a VUceptor-wide vote to determine the organization’s future. The two options were to maintain student organization status and forgo compensation or to dissolve the organization to pursue student employment. 

Podolsky and Peck received an email on Sept. 29 from Melissa Gresalfi, Dean of Residential Colleges, offering a third potential option: remain a student organization and provide student VUceptors with a $500 award for completing FOLT. No award will be given for participating in Visions. Podolsky and Peck said the option was made possible due to over 12 hours’ worth of meetings between Gresalfi and the Office of the Provost. 

At the Oct. 5 vote, 52 out of 60 present VUceptors voted in favor of receiving the monetary award. Dean Gresalfi submitted the Residential Colleges budget for the 2024-2025 academic year, including a provision for VUceptor compensation, on Oct. 6. If approved, this award will go into effect beginning in the 2024-2025 academic year, and current VUceptors will not be paid retroactively for their work. This portion of the budget will total $50,000.

Both Gresalfi and VUcept leadership emphasized that this compensation is not a stipend but rather an “award” and is not guaranteed as the budget awaits approval. Gresalfi said the budgets are usually finalized and approved by late spring, and did not specify by whom the budget would be approved. 

“I want to clarify that VUcept voted to make a request that Residential Colleges try to pursue an academic award model that supports student learning. This is not a stipend, but rather an award to support student learning during the summer orientation leadership training,” Gresalfi said. “An award to support students as they are learning (during summer orientation leader training) does not make students employees, which is why this solution might be possible.”

Gresalfi also expressed that she and “many” administrators do not want VUcept to dissolve as a student organization. 

The complexity of working out a potential plan of a summer award took the cooperation of multiple offices, which is a strong indication of the collective commitment to hearing students’ concerns regarding seeking some sort of financial support and trying to find a way for VUceptors to remain active as a student organization,” Gresalfi said. 

Podolsky and Peck added that the monetary award may create changes in VUcept structure, particularly around FOLT. 

“For VUceptors to be eligible to receive such an award, FOLT must be reworked to qualify as an eligible educational experience, which means the position of Training Co-Chair may transition out of the Executive Board,” Podolsky and Peck said. 

Juniors Solmin Kim and Genevieve Myers, who will serve as VUcept president and vice president, respectively, for the 2024-25 academic year, said the compensation resolution would allow VUcept to renegotiate its autonomy. 

“We both agree that VUceptor appreciation is crucial to the success of the organization. We will advocate for follow through with the stipend as well as renegotiation of what VUcept autonomy looks like under the umbrella of Residential Colleges,” Kim and Myers said.

Junior and VUceptor Keyonte’ Doughty called the award a “step in the right direction,” but criticized the proposed amount of $500 as “unreasonable.” 

“When we asked how much the stipend would be, the response we were given was ‘possibly $500’ and that’s just for attending FOLT. We won’t be compensated for our time leading Visions,” Doughty said to The Hustler. “That amount is completely unfair, especially since our Faculty Partners are paid $2,500…Why is it right that the faculty be paid more when students have to do more work?”

Podolsky and Peck’s email to The Hustler concluded with optimism for VUcept’s future and the possibility of compensation. 

“Since the award is contingent on approval of the FY 2024-25 budget for Residential Colleges, we hope those involved in the approval process recognize the importance of our request,” they said.  

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About the Contributors
Arman Amin, Staff Writer
Arman Amin (‘27) is a student in the College of Arts and Science planning to major in political science. When not writing for The Hustler, you can find him listening to music, going for a run or spending time with friends. You can reach him at [email protected].
Barrie Barto, Senior Staff Photographer
Barrie Barto ('25) is majoring in medicine, health & society with minors in communication of science & technology and neuroscience in the College of Arts and Science. She previously served as Photography Director. Outside of The Hustler, you can find Barrie cheering on the St. Louis Blues or tracking down the best gluten-free food in Nashville. She can be reached at [email protected].
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