By MacKenzie Herring
Beginning this year, Lewis & Clark plans to change the way select on-campus clubs and organizations pay their student workers. Until now, many on-campus positions were paid a fixed stipend. Human Resources (HR) has begun to implement a system where these jobs are paid on an hourly basis, up to an amount predetermined for that position. Work in student organizations and other stipended positions (e.g., coaches and organization advisors) will now be paid at least $11.25 per hour, the minimum wage for the City of Portland.
Not all organizations will be equally affected by this change; student government representatives and note takers are exempt.
“We have been getting emails from HR since the beginning of the year saying that they were going to change the stipend system,” Valdez said. “We actually looked into the law relating to student government and student government positions are specifically exempted when it comes to stipend (-related) laws.”
Valdez explained that HR saw how hard students were working and wanted to compensate that, particularly for positions like tutoring.
In recent years, the tutoring program run by the Student Academic Advisory Board’s has overrun its budget and some have alleged that some students have misrepresented their hours worked. A student worker who prefers to remain anonymous, believes that the change was issued to promote accountability, not as a result of an institutional problem.
“I expect that the reason they did it isn’t because something went wrong, but they just sort of needed to get everything in order and actually figure out how much students are working on these things that we are hiring (them) for,” the student said.
Instead, the student also believes that hourly pay could prevent certain over-expenditures while ensuring student workers are accountable for each hour worked. The student also recognized that many students who work for clubs and organizations do not take those positions because of the monetary incentive.
“A lot of students get involved with extracurriculars because they want experience outside of the classroom and most of the time you’re not really even doing it for the money,” the student said. “You’re doing it because you enjoy it or it might relate to something you want to do in the future.”
Student workers who do get paid on an hourly basis use a website called “Workday” to log their hours with HR.
“HR was going to have to make people who get stipends sign into Workday and basically get paid per hour like a college employee but because of the erratic nature of everybody’s work” ASLC Treasurer William Witmer ’20 said. “It’s kind of odd, it wouldn’t really work.”
HR has neither sent out a campus-wide announcement nor been clear as to how the change will affect students. For students who are involved in time-consuming paid extracurriculars, weekly commitments can be greater than what their timecard may allow. Students with multiple positions may not be able to receive payment for all of their positions under the current system, which allows for a maximum of 15 total hours per week.
Some student organizations, including the Pioneer Log, have been advised to misreport their hours if they are unable to fulfill their weekly responsibilities within their allotment. The broader implications of this and other issues stemming from the change are unclear.
College administrators are still discussing how best to proceed with this new system, including in deciding which clubs and organizations will be required to switch to hourly pay.
“Anna Gonzalez and a couple other high up administrators aren’t fans of the change and I don’t fully understand where HR is coming from versus where the administration is coming from,” Valdez said.
“Right now, we are looking at the spectrum of how we can pay students and student workers,” Dean of Students Anna Gonzalez said over email in a statement to the Pioneer Log. “For example, we looked at student government and it was determined that they can be paid via stipend, as with note takers. As we continue to work through each separate category we will meet with and communicate with student leaders including ASLC. As your Dean of Students, my first priority is to look to protect our students and to make sure that it is aligned with the best interests of the College as a whole.”
A Student Employment Specialist with Human Resources was unavailable for interviews prior to the time of writing. The Human Resources department did not respond to requests for interviews
Disclaimer: Pioneer Log Editorial Board positions are paid by stipend.