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Student workers low wages and various other issues discussed in presentation by Beloit Young Socialists

On Monday, Nov. 13, Beloit Young Socialists hosted a “Student Work Summit” with the intention of formulating a plan to request that Beloit College’s administration increase wages for students working on campus. The gathering took place in Mathers Lounge on the first floor of Pearsons Hall. Leo Tindall’20 and Edwin Harris’18 led the presentation while Levi Moos’18 moderated the discussion portion of the event.

The presentation started by reporting results from a poll previously distributed by Beloit Young Socialists asking for student-workers’ opinions about their jobs at Beloit College. The poll asked questions regarding topics such as how many hours a week students work, the longest that they have worked the same campus job, which pay grade their job falls under, whether or not they currently work more than one job, if they feel fairly compensated for the work they do, and if they believe the pay scale is fair, among others. The poll received 94 total responses, reflecting almost 10% of the campus population. 

Beloit Young Socialists’ poll revealed that there is a lot of variation in hours between on-campus jobs, with students working anywhere between one and 20 hours in a given week.

The poll also addressed the pay scale at BeloitCollege. On-campus jobs are divided into four categories: Grade I (jobs that pay $7.25 an hour), Grade II ($7.50), Grade III ($7.75) and Special (more than $7.75). It is unclear how jobs are divided between each category; for example, as Harris explained, a job as a Learning Enrichment & Disability Services (LEADS) tutor is classified as Grade II, while working as a Writing Center tutor is Grade III, despite the fact the two jobs require roughly the same skillset. An example of a Grade I job– which makes $7.25, the minimum wage in the state of Wisconsin– would be working at an on-campus eatery such as Commons, DK’s or Java Joint.

According to the poll, more than half of student-workers work Grade I jobs. Meanwhile, 21.7% of respondents were Grade II and 26.1% were Grade III. Fewer than 2% of the poll claimed to work “special” jobs. A little over half of the respondents said they are currently working multiple on-campus jobs.

 

Few student-workers feel they are being fairly compensated for their work, according to the poll. 64.5% of respondents agreed that their pay is too low, 21.5% were satisfied with their wages and 14% were unsure. 74.2% of voters said they thought the pay scale is unfair.

According to Beloit Young Socialists, the labor issue that stands out most from the poll is that most students don’t think they’re paid fairly, and they disagree with Beloit’s pay scale. Wages were the most notable area that students are looking for improvement, but the poll also showed that most students don’t have the opportunity to receive raises from their on-campus job, and that many students take issue with how school offices communicate with them about their work situation (e.g. if there is a change in their pay, when they will receive their pay, etc.).

However, roughly half of the students that took the poll said they believe their campus job will benefit their future career goals. A majority of students also believe that they received proper training and have an appropriate level of responsibility at their job.

Several long-term goals outlined by Beloit Young Socialists include increasing student wages without altering the pay scale. However, they also wouldn’t mind seeing the pay scale scrapped altogether, instead implementing a universal wage of a value such as $7.50 (or higher, if the school is willing).

The group acknowledged that there would likely be pushback from administration if they were to officially ask for an increase in wages. One argument could be that student workers are not qualified and low skill, and therefore do not deserve pay much higher than minimum wage. Another is that campus jobs are part of a student’s education, so they should not expect much in terms of wages and instead value the experience. Administration might also claim that students don’t need their jobs (except in the case of work-study) and that the pay they receive is just extra spending money. Perhaps the most obvious argument is that the college is in too much of a financial bind to raise student wages, and would likely have to raise tuition even more if it were to consider the idea.

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