The campus shutdown from the evening of Oct. 28 to the morning of Nov. 2 affected all members of the university community―but perhaps none more drastically than student workers, some of whom were left without the opportunity to earn their work study hours.
Muriel Bailey, a senior who works at both the Cap Bar and the library was not able to make up some of the hours of work that the lockdown canceled. Students like Bailey earn money through the federally-funded work study program to supplement their tuition.
Before the email that notified the whole school of the lockdown, one of the Aramark managers sent a text to the barista’s group chat, alerting them that the Cap Bar would be closed for the next four days. Because of this early notice, Bailey was not surprised when her supervisors at the library communicated that it would be closing as well. But the emails stated that they did not know how the closure would affect students’ work study awards.
Because of the system of contactless pickups at the library, Bailey was able to come in on Monday for her usual shift, but was not compensated for any of the shifts that she missed because of the shutdown by either the library or the Capp Bar.
The fitness center also communicated with their workers about the COVID-19 shutdown before the school-wide email was sent out.
Anthony Reyna, a junior who holds a job at the fitness center, said that by midday Wednesday the student workers “were sent a text to close the gym ASAP and to cancel the shifts the rest of the day.”
The message from the fitness center supervisor, Nathan Ramsey, left Reyna confused at first.
However, he told The University News that, “I’m actually glad we closed for a while because some people still don’t seem to comply with the COVID mask rules in the gym.”
Reyna added that luckily, employees at the fitness center are able to log their missed hours and still receive pay for the time they were prevented from working.
This was also true for student workers in the drama department’s costume shop. On Nov. 3, the costume shop employees received an email from their supervisor, Susan Cox, that she had received from confirmation from Associate Provost Dr. John Norris through Stefan Novinski, the chair of the drama department, that student workers could record the shifts they would have worked during the shutdown and receive compensation for the missed time.
Some of the biggest adjustments for the weekend were made by the office of admissions, which had planned an Odyssey Day for prospective students on the Saturday which fell during the shutdown.
When Maureen Shumay, the undergraduate admissions campus visit intern, heard of the shutdown her first thought was about how Odyssey Day would be impacted.
“I got kicked out of the library because they were closing and immediately, I texted my boss!” said Shumay.
Events such as the student panel, information sessions and campus tour shifted to a virtual format, while still allowing on-campus options for visitors who had already purchased plane tickets or committed to other travel plans.
Admissions counselor Faith Palmer stated that “[Prospective] students had to register in advance, and we were very clear even on that registration page that the event was subject to changes or even cancelations, depending on the campus situation.”
Instead of working seven hours of activities on Odyssey Day, Shumay was responsible for organizing the modified hour-long student panel.
Many workers in the admissions office did not receive compensation for the shifts that they missed, but depending on the systems they used, some were able to work online, explained Shumay.
While many students expressed thankfulness for the reopening or even for the few days of break, the differences between how various departments handled compensating workers for missed shifts points to an area where COVID procedures lack uniformity.
“Work study students depend on the money they earn at their jobs. The quarantine was not a staff member’s choice. It was a wise judgment made by the University Administration,” stated Cox.