Cassie LaJeunesse, Campus Carrier editor-in-chief
Claire Voltarel, Campus Carrier managing editor
A few weeks ago, our Carrier adviser came to us, the editor-in-chief and managing editor, and asked for our help with budget cuts. He gave us every staff member’s current pay rate for their weekly stipend and asked us to cut a significant percentage of what we are currently spending. We sat down and began crunching numbers, and two hours later we were both fuming.
Every week, I watch Carrier staff members put hours of their lives into this job. Between meetings, interviews, writing and production nights, each staff member commits a significant amount of time to the creation of this paper for the Berry community. With this in my mind, I found it extremely frustrating to begin slashing the budget and considering what would happen if we were not allowed to work the number of hours it takes to produce every week.
With recent proposed changes to the LifeWorks program, we have heard from Chief of Staff Debbie Heida and other members of administration that students will be limited to working 12 hours a week as upperclassmen and 10 hours a week as first-year students. The goal of these limitations is to increase the hourly wage and allow students to make a bit more money per hour while working fewer hours, with the overall total earnings working out to the same amount. At face value, this sounds like a great proposal.
The problem, though, is that no one stands to make any more money with these proposed changes. In fact, it is likely that students’ work earnings will decrease. In the graphics, we illustrated the math that we ran to determine what weekly and yearly earnings will look like under this new system. We found that at every level of work, potential earnings will face at least a 25.5 percent decrease. In other words, any student in any job at any level in the new system will be making three quarters of what they could currently.
Our graphics are based on potential earnings with students allowed to work 20 hours per week in the current system, but anyone with a calculator can determine that a student currently working only 16 hours will still stand to earn less money.
But what if it’s not about the money, you ask? This change has been presented as a 25 percent
cut to hours, not to spending. Though concerns about paying for higher education are valid, the hallmark of a Berry education is not earning capability, it’s meaningful work experience. However, this is where our further questions and concerns come in. Who gets to decide what is “meaningful”? If a decrease in hours worked is required to make work more meaningful, does that mean that some jobs that are currently being worked are not meaningful?
Berry prides itself on being an experiential institution, advertising phrases over the years such as “Experience it firsthand” and the latest, “learn it well, keep it always.” But not every job can provide meaningful experience at only 12 hours a week. The Berry Compact advertises “having the option of strengthening your resume with leadership and management experience,” but that does not seem possible working only 2.4 hours a day in a five-day work week.
Working in a management position takes time, and it’s not always time in the office. As editor-in-chief, I spend time every week fielding questions, meeting with people individually and facilitating communication between staff members to ensure that things are running smoothly.
Working up to a management position, or developing any skill, for that matter, takes time as well. Not every job can be performed in 12 hours a week. Some require more training and time dedicated because of their very nature. How are Berry students supposed to learn something well and keep it always if they are not permitted to dedicate the time required to learning it?
Many of the concerns surrounding these changes lie not only in the changes themselves, but in the way that administration has communicated the changes to the Berry community. We feel that we have received different answers on why these changes are necessary. A Carrier article from February 13 said that Heida cited “competitive rates like other off-campus jobs” as a reason for the changes. However, President Steve Briggs said in an interview that changes have to do with “changing minimum wage” nationally and answering the question “how do we use our time more meaningfully?”
If the goal is to compete with off-campus jobs, how will a 12-hour maximum incentivize on-campus jobs? If the goal is to compete with a changing minimum wage, the 12-hour maximum again hinders students’ earning potential. And if the goal is to create more meaningful work experience, we maintain the question of who and what define the meaningfulness of student experiences?
Overall, there are questions about this process that have yet to be answered, yet the math speaks for itself. Administration is marketing this LifeWorks update as a raise in pay and a decrease in hours, yet students stand to lose money when the 12-hour limit is enforced. This is concerning for several reasons, so we must not let these questions go unanswered.
We at the Carrier encourage the Berry community to think about the questions we pose here and what they mean for the wide variety of departments and jobs on this campus, as well as for the quality of our student work program. Berry is proud to provide “relevant experience,” “pride of ownership” and “universal preparation” through its LifeWorks program, and it should be. The opportunities that Berry offers are incomparable in many ways; however, they lose many of their experiential advantages when administration sets such strict limits on how much students can work.
We understand that this change is an evolving process, but we believe that the Berry community, both faculty and students alike, deserves to be involved in that process. If you have questions or concerns about what is happening in our Berry community, make your voice heard. Ask the questions that no one else is asking, bring volume to the things that people only whisper and take an active role in what goes on around you. Do not allow your complacency to become consent to changes that could have adverse effects. We know that we are not the only ones with concerns about these proposed changes, so speak up.