Chatham needs to rethink student employment policies


Berry Hall, where some students are employed in the Admissions Office of Chatham University. Photo Credit: Lily Kubit

Michaela DeLauter

Recently, I received an email from Chatham Student Employment that I had a new student worker contract. Confused, as I didn’t apply for a new job, I opened the email and after reading, I realized that I was given a promotion and a pay raise.

I was ecstatic, as I was finally being compensated for my increase in work at my job. For me, I need to work. I am paying for college all on my own with little financial aid. For me to have money for essentials, like food and housing, I need to maintain a job year-round.

Currently, I am the only student worker employed at my job. When I was hired last year, I had another coworker who split these responsibilities. However, she has now graduated, leaving me to do the work by myself. 

It is much easier for me to have a job on campus, considering I live four hours away, and it is easier to go home on long weekends or breaks. Additionally, I have a busy schedule and working at Chatham makes it easier to manage my schoolwork and class times.

This pay raise meant that I was going to be able to cover my everyday expenses while possibly having some left-over money to spend on myself. 

In confusion and curiosity, I reached out to my supervisor about this raise. But as it turned out, I was never actually given a raise, just false hope. 

When they transitioned the student worker materials to my new supervisor, they misassigned a job that she thought was my position. As a result, my supervisor accidentally sent me a new contract with different pay. I understand the confusion on her part and appreciate her response; however, the experience caused me to think about the lack of chances to be promoted, and why there’s a lack of student workers on the Chatham campus. 

I love my job – it’s not normally stressful and the professional staff I work with are friendly and fun to be around. But it can be a lot of responsibility, especially when you are the only worker there. 

The projects are simple, consisting mostly of organizing and rearranging files on the computer, yet some projects still take weeks to finish. To make one person do all that work can be a lot. There is also little room for advancement as a student worker at Chatham. Why might this be the case?

For example, Student Ambassadors endure multiple trainings to be qualified for their job yet still make the bare minimum that is paid to student employees on campus. However, in my opinion, they have one of the most important jobs as a student employee. 

To my knowledge, there is no chance for them to get an increase in pay. This highlights another issue: training requirements across student jobs appear unequal.

My job also lacks means for advancement. If I were to stay at the same position all four years of my schooling, I would have slim chance of earning a raise. If another student were to fill a position in my office, I would help train them, as I was trained by a now graduated student. I would oversee training this student yet be making the same as them, constituting another task without compensation.

It becomes discouraging to know that you can work your hardest at a job, yet there will be little chance  you will be rewarded for that job.

Lack of advancement and compensation regarding student employment brings up another point: Chatham only pays student workers once a month.

Since I live in an apartment on campus, for me to lower my costs of college, I switched to the lowest meal plan in attempts to use some of the paycheck to help buy food. For me, this can be challenging. Since I am only getting paid once a month, I must carefully budget to make sure I don’t run out of my spending money before the end of the month. If I do, I don’t have money for food. 

Since most of my books were so expensive, I have spent most of the money that I had put aside for essentials on my books, leaving me little to buy food to eat. 

I know this has been an issue brought up in the past. Many student employees across campus rely on their paycheck the same way I do, which makes it challenging when we’re getting a monthly paycheck.

If this is a reoccurring concern throughout campus, why is nothing being done about it? 

Many of the issues that I and many other students struggle with could be avoided if we transferred to a bi-weekly pay system. 

Many students going to school deal with great financial burdens that come with schooling. There’s high tuition, room and board, and expensive mandatory textbooks. To compensate the financial burdens, students get these on campus jobs to make money. However, this problem is only exacerbated by a monthly pay system.

These hardships could have been avoided if I were paid bi-weekly. This brings me to my final point: Perhaps there aren’t more student workers because of these kinds of conditions.

My position is a good example. I am the only student worker. If a student applied for my job, they would find a workplace that has little chance of a raise, a sizable workload, and paychecks only once a month.

Chatham runs on student workers. They help to recruit, teach and give back to the student body. It would be hard for Chatham if there were no student workers.

Give the student workers better conditions to alleviate the amount of work thrown on the already stressed employees.