By Emilia Otte, Copy Editor
Administration, students, and faculty of Bryn Mawr College met on Wednesday, September 14 for the first diversity conversation of the year to discuss changes in the way student employment on campus will be structured, with a particular focus on wages and professional development.
Two major changes are currently in the works. The college is planning to restructure student jobs in order to equalize pay rates across departments. In addition to this, the administration is also exploring ways to provide more opportunities for professional development, so that students are able to acquire skills that will be useful when applying to jobs after graduation.
According to President Cassidy, the question of pay inequity on campus surfaced during last year’s Community Day of Learning. Over the summer, senior staff members of various departments looked into the question and discovered that rates of pay were not consistent across campus. In order to fix this, the college plans to create four distinct “levels” of employment that will be defined within every department in which a student can be employed. Students employed at the same level will be paid the same hourly wage, regardless of what department they are in. For example, a level one worker in dining services will be paid the same rate as a level one worker in the athletics department.
In order to make these “systemic changes,” President Cassidy explained, the college is considering bringing in outside people, possibly inviting student employment leaders from other colleges to offer their input, “just to get more expertise.” The goal is to have this new structure in place by the start of the 2017-2018 academic year.
The college also hopes to enhance students’ work experiences by providing them with skills that will give them extra leverage when applying for jobs in the future. Providing training for supervisory positions, offering students a chance to reflect on their own experiences as student-workers, and instituting formal interviews and resumes as part of the job process are a few of the ideas currently being considered.
Another concern which came up during last year’s Community Day of Learning was the treatment of student workers, particularly those in dining services, which is the largest student employer on campus. According to President Cassidy, the reactions of students to their peers working in the dining halls has created a situation in which these workers are “treated in ways that are almost inhuman.” Referencing the experiences that students recounted during the Day of Learning, President Cassidy said, “It was really hard to hear those stories.”
Students are already taking steps to prevent these kinds of situations from occurring in the future. This year for the first time, first-year students took part in an hour-long workshop during customs week that focused on treating dining service workers with respect. Entitled “Humanizing the Hat”, the workshop began with an ice-breaker intended to prompt students to engage in a dialogue and ask questions. Afterwards, the dining hall supervisors facilitating the dialogue finished by sharing and reflecting on their own experiences as workers in dining services. Mercedes Aponte ’17, Co-Student Manager at Erdman, headed the project.
Bryn Mawr College currently pays wages for 1,719 jobs on campus. Last year, the college averaged 618 students under employment- about half of the student body. Some of these students hold multiple jobs. Wages range from $9.50 to $10.50 per hour, with a few exceptions, such as TAs and graders, who are paid more.
Students on campus are technically permitted to work no more than 17.5 hours per week, but this rule is not necessarily enforced, in part because students sometimes hold multiple jobs, or else work part-time off-campus. The Dean’s Office recommends that students work no more than 10 hours per week. Dean Raima Evans said that she has witnessed first-hand how going outside these guidelines “impacts their [students’] performance here in a very significant way, over time.” Yet sticking to the prescribed number of hours has not enabled students to earn enough money to pay for the necessities of life at Bryn Mawr.
One student suggested that the college might consider providing additional benefits to its employees, such as subsidized housing for Hall Advisors. Another student brought forward the idea of offering a stipend to Customs people who, as of now, are not paid. If the college were to provide these things, it might lessen the pressure on students to work multiple jobs.
Further discussions on these topics will take place at a future date. Additionally, Dean Jennifer Walters will be holding open conversations on Wednesdays at 12 pm in the Dorothy Vernon Room in New Dorm Dining Hall.
From the print edition published on Oct. 5, 2016