Claire Voltarel, Campus Carrier managing editor
Berry’s LifeWorks program is undergoing a renewal process that plans to lower the amount of hours students can work while increasing hourly wages, with an overall budget cut of 25 percent to each department. As a result, department heads and work supervisors are in the midst of working out plans to accommodate these upcoming changes.
These new plans have raised several questions among departments and students alike about what the future holds for their individual programs. Brian Carroll, department chair and professor of communication, worries that these changes will prove more challenging than a simple budget cut.
“For programs like ours in communication and, presumably, those in, say, the performing arts, athletics, and many others, re-thinking student work isn’t as simple as lopping off one-fourth of our student work hours. It might not even be possible,” Carroll said.
More specifically, Carroll argued that such a large cut is difficult to apply to the variety within and between programs, resulting in a hindrance to growth, cross-sectional relationships and experiences and may even result in the elimination of entire sections within work programs.
“The one-size-fits-all budget-slashing approach also ignores variance in program maturity and development across our programs and activities,” Carroll said. “For a program in startup or growth mode, a one-fourth cut is catastrophic.”
Similarly, students have shown concern on the amount of work and experience they will be able to gain from hourly cuts. Junior show producer and studio assistant for Viking Fusion Shelby Simms said that she values her student work role and wishes she did not have to give up hours.
“I love student work. I wish I could work more, and I don’t like that student work is changing so I can only work 12 hours,” Simms said.
Other students worry that they will have to give up the multiple positions they hold on campus. Additionally, upcoming upperclassmen students applying for the Gate of Opportunity Scholarship will have to transition to working at The Spires. Sophomore Thomas Harlin enjoys the variety of working two jobs and said he will not be pleased giving them up to work at The Spires for Gate.
“I really enjoy [student work]. I have two jobs and am working about 20 hours a week, but I’m really not looking forward to next year when they are going to cut it, and any of my friends with me at Gate are going to have to go work at The Spires,” Harlin said.
Because of the depth of these changes and rising concerns of students, departments are weighing their options in regard to the best plan of action, which may include more work on the front end, as the Health and Wellness Center is experiencing.
Due to cuts, the Health and Wellness Center is making a switch from paper medical records to electronic copies; however, this change will require extra steps in order to adjust, according to Melanie Merrin, assistant director of the Health and Wellness Center.
“There is going to be a learning curve for the entire staff and the student workers,” Merrin said. “So we need to beef up our student work staff now while we learn to do that. Even under the old system it would be hard to manage our hours, so that’s going to be a challenge for us. We understand the reasoning behind the change, and we are going to try to do the best we can.”
For other departments, such as the department of chemistry, changes will not seem as drastic, rather advantageous to student workers, according to chemistry department chair Alice Suroviec. Suroviec said that student research assistants will be asked to complete their work for credit as part of an upper level independent project class. Additionally, students working for credit will allow faculty research project budgets to remain as they are. Lab assistants and preppers will not see any change to their positions, aside from potentially capping the amount of workers.
According to Suroviec, the change from pay to credit will positively serve students in their college career.
“It’s an advantage for the student because now it’s on their transcript, where if you do it for work, you’ll get a paycheck, but there is not obvious place to say ‘I did work’.”
Additionally, she noted the benefits students will see in their academics.
“I think it should advantage the student so that they can focus on their classwork and not spend so many hours working,” Suroviec said.
However, for Carroll, academics and the LifeWorks program go hand-in-hand in creating the first-hand experience for students Berry prides itself on, such as the communication department’s partnership with athletics.
“The program fulfills and embodies any of the hippy-dippy marketing slogans the college has embraced these past 10 or so years,” Carroll said.
The LifeWorks program itself is not immune to these changes, as Director of Student Work Operations Mike Burnes explained, and are already planning to make cuts.
Burnes is currently working to ensure that the changes on the back end are in line before anything comes to fruition.
“For me, the challenge is making sure all of the logistics are in place, and that’s not an easy task,” Burnes said.
Burnes hopes that, with their collaboration with the Office of Technology, they will develop more access to information for department heads to better manage the hourly cuts.
In other administrative plans, according to Chief of Staff Debbie Heida, some departments requiring more hours to function will rely on other departments that are taking on larger cuts to balance out the difference. Burnes hopes that these plans will allow the college to better adapt to future state increases to the minimum wage.
Representatives from the animal science department and Center for Student Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development did not respond to request for comment on this topic. Keep up to date on more student work coverage on VikingFusion.com.