Oakland University Housing: Save Student Jobs

Oakland University Housing: Save Student Jobs

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Oakland University Housing: Save Student Jobs

Unfortunately, Oakland University (OU) Housing has decided to eliminate large portions of the student workforce. OU Housing has unilaterally cut student employee benefits, compensation, and entire positions. These changes include the recent elimination of SOPE and Nightwatch, and the previous elimination of the Bear Bus. Additionally, OU Housing has limited Desk Attendants to working up to 10 hours a week, eliminated previous APM benefits, and made the RA position more difficult. The petition below describes the damage done to each of the jobs in detail while giving an overview of the changes being made. By signing this petition, you are standing with student employees and residents alike and oppose these decisions.

This petition aims to meet these demands:

  • Reinstate the SOPE program in its entirety
  • Reinstate Nightwatch in its entirety (pre-2020)
  • Eliminate the 10 hour cap on Desk Attendant work
  • Reinstate APM Housing benefits
  • Reverse any potential cut to RA stipends
  • Reinstate the Bear Bus program in its entirety
  • Give student workers a seat at the table before making any changes to student employment

Here is a further explanation of the situation and reasoning as to why these demands must be met:

 

SOPE: Completely Eliminated

Despite the reduction of students living on campus, the reduction in funding, the pandemic protocols, and the small staff (of only five ambassadors), Sustaining Our Planet Earth (SOPE) has been able to host ~10 programs a month that are still interactive and safe. Furthermore, in the current 2020-2021 academic year alone, SOPE programs have had a total of 516 attendees, which makes them one of the most popular programming entities within OU Housing. This past semester, SOPE only spent about $1,900 on programming, which is relatively inexpensive for such a large turnout. Additionally, SOPE, a team of 5, are only paid $9.87 hourly. These costs are a small price to pay for the undeniable impact SOPE has been making. SOPE duties have included taking out residence halls recycling bins, made informational boards around campus, organized campus clean up events, collaborating with RLA and OUSC for reusable dining hall bags and silverware, and countless other projects to help OU become more sustainable. The elimination of the only organization dedicated to sustainability within OU Housing in the face of budget cuts proves that student employees and residents are not kept in mind when making large scale decisions.

 

Nightwatch: Completely Eliminated

Although Nightwatch (NW) workers lost the free housing incentive this year and the typical stipend the position was accustomed to, the OU NW team still worked to ensure every building was secured during the late hours of the night, while only being paid $10 an hour. In a typical year, NW workers would have had two people per station; however, this year, OU Housing expected them to work their shifts solo and perform the same tasks that duos did in years past. For some, NW seemed like a nuisance; but for others, NW was a sign of comfort. Regardless of one's attitudes towards NW, it was a chance for employment and the promotion of safety in our residence halls. Sadly, even though the NW team worked incredibly hard, their efforts were met with an email telling them NW was being completely eliminated for the next academic year only a few weeks ago.

Unfortunately, both SOPE and NW workers were not officially informed of the job cuts until February 22nd, well after the deadlines of many remaining on-campus job opportunities. The only consolation these students were given was a front desk job with only a max of 10 hours a week (~$100 a week before taxes), which is a dismal amount for students who worked up to 25 hours a week in their previous jobs. Also, this solution does not address the fact that NW being gone in its entirety raises safety concerns and reduces the chances for students to be employed. A decision such as eliminating NW shows that OU Housing is not operating in the best interest of its residents or student employees.

 

Desk Attendants: Reduced Hours

The Desk Attendant (DA) staff that operates the service desks are essential to each residence hall. From being the face of OU Housing and upholding student privacy through FERPA, to giving out toilet paper and handling the mail and packages that many students use to receive their textbooks, medication, financial documents, etc., the DAs in OU Housing are essential to keeping the buildings running. Not only are DAs following OU Housing Policy, but they also are trained to follow federal laws regarding the mail duties they handle. As an hourly position, many DAs rely on their employment to pay bills and for other necessities. DAs are usually able to work a maximum of 25 hours (as is the rule for all of OU’s student employees), but beginning in Fall 2021, DAs will only have the ability to work a maximum of 10 hours at the desks. This is a significant loss for students who have only been able to get through school thanks to the hours they are able to work at the service desks. The DAs deserve the proper attention and consideration from OU Housing for being such a crucial part of keeping the residence halls running.

 

Academic Peer Mentors: Still Not Receiving Full Benefits

As of 2020, Academic Peer Mentors (APMs) no longer receive free housing as compensation for the critical work they do in advocating for and improving student success among residents. APMs provide free tutoring, free programming, information on student success, and much more, but their ability to aid students in need has been dramatically reduced since many of them have been forced off campus with their free housing being revoked. Not only does this damage APMs ability to afford a college education, but this takes away a key support structure for residents that many rely on. The decision to revoke and not reinstate APMs housing benefit directly harms residents and the potential student employees that could be employed as an APM for housing. Additionally, the APM staff were not informed of this decision until well after the opportunities for other on-campus jobs had passed. This left many APMs with no other choice but to quit or to come up with over $10,000 to afford on-campus housing in just a few months. This decision by OU Housing demonstrates that they are not prioritizing the needs of residents or student employees when making sweeping decisions. 

 

Resident Assistants: Harder Job and Potential Stipend Reduction

In light of the pandemic, all OU Housing employees have been forced to do their jobs differently than normal, and Resident Assistants (RAs) are no exception. RAs rely on DAs, NW, APMs, and SOPE completing their jobs and openly communicating in order to address the needs of the community appropriately, and with the massive cuts to these areas previously outlined, this has become nearly impossible. In addition, many residence halls do not have a full staff, which puts pressure on current RAs to pick up more work in the way of being on duty, creating extra curriculum items, working with residents outside their floor, and more. Cuts to any position means that work will have to be made up by someone else, and this work almost always falls to RAs with no change in compensation or benefits despite the extra workload. Furthermore, there may have been unmentioned changes to RAs stipends. In the 2020-2021 offer letters, RAs were offered a $1500 stipend for their services. In the 2021-2022 offer letters, it appears as though RA stipends were reduced to $1100. The reduction has not been officially confirmed or denied by OU Housing, but it would be in line with the general trend of how other student employee positions have been treated. A $400 (27%) reduction in wages is an unacceptable change that cannot go unaddressed and is an abdication of the responsibility to clearly communicate with your workers.

 

Bear Bus: Completely Eliminated

In Fall 2020, the Bear Bus program was eliminated completely by OU Housing. Throughout the past decade, the Bear Bus program had expanded to include shuttles, vans, and busses that ran throughout campus and off-campus to places necessary to residents. Many students relied heavily on the Bear Bus; students with physical disabilities relied on the Bear Bus to traverse quickly and safely around campus; International students depended on the Bear Bus for transportation; Students who live in off-campus apartments and those without licenses or cars (or either) relied on the Bear Bus to take them to get their groceries. Terminating the Bear Bus program shows OU Housing’s lack of empathy for their physically disabled students, their international students, and any other students who heavily relied on free transportation.

 

Our Demands

While it is understandable that OU Housing has experienced a financial drought during the pandemic and that budget cuts must be made somewhere, the commitment to sustainability, campus safety, equitable working hours, free transportation, resident well-being, and student employment should never be optional. The unilateral decision to cut student jobs, benefits, and programs while continuing to charge residents in full for on-campus housing provides the evidence needed to come to this conclusion: OU Housing is not looking out for the interests of student workers or residents. Oakland University expects students to pay the same costs for tuition and housing while, at the same time, decreasing the services and benefits available on campus. 

A large amount of funding for OU comes from tuition and housing payments from the students and the services provided by student employees, so we deserve to have a seat at the table when it comes to large scale decision making that determines how our campus functions. The only reason OU Housing is able to make a profit at all is because of the student employees who generate that profit, and the weaponization of students’ financial needs and dedication to their communities against them will not go unaddressed. In the midst of a pandemic that has caused massive economic downturns across the globe, the burden of budget cuts must not be placed on the students.

Please sign and share this petition to make sure the previously outlined demands of student workers are met. We hope that OU administration will see that students care about this issue and amend these changes to better benefit our communities. OU Housing only works because its employees do, and if we stand together, we can accomplish substantive change.

- OU Student Workers Coalition (OUSWC)

 

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