Student work changes: Goals of the renewed LifeWorks program

By Benjamin Allee, Viking Fusion News Producer

MOUNT BERRY, Ga. — On October 25, 2019, an email from President Briggs to Berry faculty and staff provided new goals for the LifeWorks program, including changes to student work hours and pay. 

A February 3 email from the Gate of Opportunity scholarship coordinator, Helen Simmons, gave further updates to work requirements for Gate scholars for the 2020-2021 academic year. 

An interview with Berry’s chief of staff, Debbie Heida, along with a following announcement at a Student Government Association meeting, added further updates to the following: levels of student pay, starting dates for the new changes, details on changes to hour requirements, and work at The Spires. 

“Changes to hours,” “changes to pay,” “working with The Spires,” “relevant dates,” and “LifeWorks statistics” were updated February 10, 2020.

“Changes to hours,” “changes to individual positions,” “changes to pay,” and “working with The Spires,” were further updated February 12, 2020.

We will update this page as new information becomes available.

Changes to hours:

In his October email, President Briggs recommended trimming the number of hours worked by students by 25%. Referring to practical steps toward this goal, however, Briggs said that the college “will work toward a 20% reduction in the numbers of hours of student work in their division.” 

There will be a new expectation for first year students to work up to 10 hours a week, and current students up to 12 hours per week. Gate of Opportunity Scholars should have their hours “adjusted accordingly.”

Stipend level workers, who hold particularly intensive level 5 positions, will see their hourly limit trimmed from 20 down to 16.

Chief of Staff Debbie Heida said that supervisors will determine how to enforce these limits, and that new information systems may be involved in communicating student hours to those supervisors more efficiently.

During a Q&A following Heida’s SGA announcement, a student asked whether workers could file for exemptions to the 12 hour limit. Heida said an exception process will be created to allow people to pass the limit; department chairs will have to apply for the process on behalf of students, and the LifeWorks program will review the request.

Heida added that exceptions like these will be few and far between, and that in order to satisfy requirements for long shifts, departments should hire more students who will work fewer hours.

Changes to individual positions:

The 20% decrease in student work hours is not meant to apply evenly to all student work positions. Instead, President Briggs said accommodating these changes “will require a careful review of positions.” 

In her SGA announcement, Heida said that the Vice President of each department at Berry is responsible for administering these cuts. They may ask one office in their department to cut hours down severely, either by limiting hours for positions or cutting positions entirely, in order to allow another office to maintain its number of hours and workers.

Despite these cuts, Heida said that each student will still be guaranteed a job on campus for all four years of their undergraduate education.

Changes to pay:

By the beginning of the 2020-21 academic year, the college aims to raise students’ minimum wage to $9.00 per hour. This, in combination with the reduction in student hours, should allow students to earn the same pay while working fewer hours per week, according to Briggs’ email. The pay rates for Berry’s student work position levels are:

  • Levels 1 & 2: $9.00 per hour
  • Level 3: $9.25 per hour
  • Levels 4 & 5: $9.50 per hour

Working with The Spires:

The new goals for the LifeWorks program include collaboration between Berry College and The Spires, the hotel, and other community partners. This is meant to provide student work positions that are meaningful to students and offset the budgetary cost of the student work program.

According to Heida, workers at The Spires will be considered employees of The Spires rather than of Berry College. Berry considers The Spires to be a “community and industry partner,” so The Spires will be responsible for paying their own employees.

Scholarship coordinator Helen Simmons said in her February 3 email that upperclassmen entering the Gate of Opportunity program in the 2020-2021 academic year, approximately 10 students, will be required to work for one year at The Spires. 

This group of Gate Scholars will begin training for their positions in May of 2020, and will begin work at The Spires when the facility opens on June 1, 2020. This requirement will only apply to the 2020-2021 academic year.

Changes to student training:

With the goal of providing student workers “appropriate training procedures,” The Center for Personal and Professional Development will provide training resources to  student work offices.

Relevant dates:

  • Deadline for planned cuts to student work hours: Spring 2020
  • Changes take effect: May 1, 2020
  • The Spires open: June 1, 2020
  • Training begins for new Gate upperclassmen: May 2020

LifeWorks statistics:

  • Students employed: 1,800+
  • Hours worked by students during the academic year: 500,000
  • Hours worked by students over the summer: 200,000
  • Cost of LifeWorks in Berry’s operating budget: $5.4 million
  • Student work positions to be created by The Spires: 65

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