The University of Maryland SGA passed a bill Wednesday supporting efforts by tour guides at this university to be compensated for their work.

Tour guides are part of Maryland Images — a student organization that collaborates with the Office of Enrollment Management to represent this university on tours. The Student Government Association’s bill supports an open letter sent by nearly 100 current tour guides that calls for all Maryland Images workers to receive minimum wage pay.

The letter to the university enacted a deadline of March 7 for a meeting with university administration or a “productive plan toward payment” — or else they will stop leading tours on March 8.

Tour guides supporting the letter want the university to enact a pay structure consistent with how other groups, such as Event & Visit Services, are compensated. Currently, Maryland Images is a volunteer organization.

“Students have to balance classes, work, and internships with an unpaid, volunteer position while watching students in similar jobs be paid fairly for their time,” the letter read.

The SGA bill will allow legislators to distribute the open letter to administrators and to the general student body as a petition.

[UMD SGA introduces bill to engage students on Maryland General Assembly legislation]

This university did not respond to requests for comment on the letter and SGA bill in time for publication.

Meghana Kotraiah, the SGA’s executive vice president, said Maryland Images leaders expressed concerns about students’ ability to participate in an unpaid position during a meeting with SGA members.

Kotraiah, a former tour guide, said the Maryland Images representatives also expressed concerns about tour guide diversity. Some applicants opt out of the tour guide selection process because of the role’s financial burdens, she said.

“I would have loved to continue being a tour guide, but I think it definitely would have been more feasible for me if it was a paid opportunity and I can consider it my job,” Kotraiah, a senior agricultural and resource economics and government and politics major, said. “I had to choose my priorities, and the thing that I had to give up was the thing that was unpaid.”

White students are overrepresented in the tour team’s applicant pool compared to their population on campus, while other groups are less represented than their overall campus population, according to the letter.

A lack of pay prevents the organization from accurately representing the student body and some students from getting involved, the letter read.

Eliav Hamburger, the Student Government Association’s speaker of the legislature, agreed that tour guides need to be fairly compensated.

“There’s no reason that the people who are actually giving the tours should not get paid, especially when they work so hard to … display what a great school we are,” the junior computer engineering major said.

The SGA also passed a bill Wednesday endorsing a bill in the Maryland General Assembly that would establish a financial literacy initiative.

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The Maryland General Assembly’s Financial Well-Being Pilot Program would put a financial advisor in place at this university and Morgan State University to help students achieve financial literacy, according to the bill’s sponsor Chelsea Boyer, a transfer representative and junior communications major.

Hamburger said the state bill also encourages the financial advisor to seek out students who could benefit most from increased financial literacy. He added that the state legislature bill would benefit students even after graduation.

“They’re able to manage their loans, they’re able to choose a good job that will have proper benefits, to be able to weigh jobs against each other to figure out which ones would be most financially feasible for them,” Hamburger said. “This will be a really, really important part in making sure students are able to finance college properly.”