Club culture is a fixture of life at Georgetown University, with significant social and professional benefits. This culture causes many students to strive for leadership positions in various organizations, as they can provide a starting point for students to gain valuable experience outside the classroom during their four years at Georgetown.
However, student club leaders do not receive compensation for the many hours of work they dedicate to their respective organizations. This lack of compensation causes a socioeconomic barrier for students who cannot afford to take on significant unpaid labor. In order to create equal and accessible club leadership opportunities for students, the university must work to provide avenues of compensation for student leaders.
The current lack of paid leadership positions stymies equal opportunity by failing to compensate club leaders for the hours of work they dedicate to the maintenance and growth of their organization. As such, students are often unable to actively participate in a club while simultaneously working a paid job. The lack of compensation limits socioeconomic diversity in club leadership, forcing students to choose between a time-consuming leadership role and a paid job that doesn’t promote their interests and goals.
For Deborah Oh (COL ’23), working a Federal Work Study (FWS) job to pay unavoidable college expenses makes it difficult to even consider unpaid opportunities on campus.
“I don’t even really look into the opportunities that I know won’t be paid, because I know I won’t be able to do them.” Oh said in an interview with The Hoya.
Student leadership positions are mostly voluntary, and therefore do not qualify for wage payment, according to Erika Cohen-Derr, Assistant Vice President in Student Affairs.
“The landscape of student groups and organizations reflects more complexity than may be evident to the average student. Certain student leadership roles overlap with paid student employee positions, but the vast majority of student organization roles are voluntary, and not eligible for work study or other wage payment,” Cohen-Derr wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Similarly, Marianne Savane (NHS ’25) said the lack of pay discouraged her from applying to all the clubs she was interested in.
“I didn’t apply to as many clubs as I wanted to last year since I was prioritizing my time towards a paid job which contributed to my tuition,” Savanne told The Hoya. She clarified that her paid job was off campus, since her work study did not cover enough of her tuition requirements.
Organizations like Blue and Gray, Georgetown’s official tour guide society, and media organizations such as The Hoya and The Voice, provide services essential to a well-rounded extracurricular experience at any university. However, the lack of compensation for such time-consuming organizations can make it difficult for students to fully participate.
Lily Erickson (SFS ’23), president of Blue and Gray, said that compensation would increase accessibility for low-income students to enter club leadership positions.
“Providing compensation for leadership would be a good way to improve socioeconomic diversity across organizations at Georgetown,” Erickson told The Hoya.
Full Disclosure: Erickson formerly served as a Deputy Copy Editor for The Hoya.
On the other hand, when students are paid for their work in a leadership role, they express a greater satisfaction at both how their time is spent at an extracurricular activity and the greater diversity in the organization itself. The Corp, an independent student-run organization, employs and pays students to work at various locations on campus.
Daanyal Ebrahim (SFS ’25), controller of accounting at The Corp, said that compensation encourages The Corp’s employees to continue enthusiastically working for the organization.
“My colleagues definitely enjoy being paid, but by nature of it being a job, that’s the expectation — everything they do they get compensated for. That’s the basic incentive.” Ebrahim wrote to The Hoya.
Ebrahim also said that paying staffers increases equity within The Corp.
“Paying students improves our socioeconomic diversity because many people literally use us as their primary source of income or for federal work-study,” he said.
The Corp is a nonprofit organization, rather than a university-sponsored student organization. Still, it exemplifies how paid opportunities increase inclusivity for students across the socioeconomic spectrum.
The Georgetown University Student Association (GUSA) is responsible for allocating the budget for all university-recognized student clubs each fiscal year. GUSA currently allocates funds for compensation of student leaders in Georgetown Opportunities for Leadership Development (GOLD), an organization that promotes student development through programs such as Leadership & Beyond and Emerging Leaders Program. GOLD is not a student-run organization and is maintained by the university, making it eligible for compensation.
Therefore, the Editorial Board calls on the university to work with GUSA to implement compensation funding for student-run organizations using student tuition. While this solution may take multiple academic years to fully implement, it is essential to promoting socioeconomic equity in student life.
Admittedly, compensating club leadership is an ambitious request. The university would have to divert significant funds from other parts of the budget and determine which clubs should receive such funding for which positions. Some might claim that extracurricular activities fall beyond the scope of what students’ tuition should cover. However, the Editorial Board believes that the club experience is an essential aspect of the Georgetown educational experience and is worth tuition dollars and administrative efforts, just as classes are.
Compensation for hours spent as a campus leader is critical to ensure that all members of the student body can equally enjoy the kind of interdisciplinary education that Georgetown offers. In other words, striving toward broad opportunity in campus life unhindered by financial inequality is critical to maintaining the integrity of a Georgetown education.
The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and is chaired by the opinion editors. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.