Financial Aid Department makes changes to work study, less student choice

In response to changes in the numbers and the types of campus jobs available for students, Williams’ Financial Aid Department has announced a revision of the system of worker assignment and salary.

Director of Financial Aid Philip Wick said in hopes of balancing out the inequalities and demands of the different departments, the Department has restricted the placement of first-year workers. He added that the pay scale has also been diversified, with increased incentives for upperclassmen who return to jobs held the previous year.

The overhaul of the work-study program was spurred by the creation of a review board last spring to consider student and faculty complaints about the program. The board was comprised of faculty, students and staff.

Wick said the committee convened in response to student and faculty complaints about the work-study program. The complaints were partly the result of an expansion in the past few years in the types of jobs available to students.

While many students work in such familiar places as the dining halls, the Office of Information Technology (OIT) in Jesup Hall, and the libraries, off-campus jobs and smaller employers have become more prevalent. Williams has 30 students participating in the America Reads program and others working with school children in science and technology. Also, the new Goodrich coffee bar employs 34 students.

Wick lauds this diversification, but he added that it also places “a certain amount of stress on the system.”

According to students and student employers, one of the largest problems with the old system was finding enough students to work in the less popular departments.

Dining Services Manager Michael Cutler said while the number of students at Williams has remained the same, the amount of positions and hours for financial aid workers has increased.

“There is still the same nucleus of bodies, but it is stretched out into different areas,” he said.

Wick said to remedy this situation, the Financial Aid Office has assigned first-year students primarily to Dining Services, though a few are assigned to OIT and the libraries.

“By assigning first-year students, we can take away the anxiety of choosing a job and protect Dining Services,” he said.

Once assigned to a position, student workers are not supposed to change jobs.

But a few student workers have suggested that there are ways around this rule.

“In the past, Financial Aid had policies that they never really enforced,” said Holly Smith ‘99, the head waitress at Baxter. “It was easy to switch jobs.” She said she hopes the new system will cause student workers to take their jobs more seriously.

The new assignment system has had mixed reviews.

Betsy Milanesi, an assistant to the College librarian, said “The library is very satisfied with the number of employees this year.”

“We had lost quite a few, yet have been able to replace them easily,” she added. “So far, it has gone very smoothly this year.”

While many say that the new system is more efficient, several first-years say they are frustrated by the restrictions.

Adam Sigrist ’02 had originally been assigned to Dining Services, but attempted to switch to Security. After finding out that he could not be reassigned because of the new policy, he was very disappointed. “I personally don’t like [the new system],” he said. “It doesn’t allow for flexibility in terms of personal interest.”

“I think I’m skilled enough to do something a little more challenging,” said Yobelin Fernandez ’02, of her job at Driscoll Dining Hall. “But it’s okay.”

Smith added that many first-year students have trouble fitting in shifts at the dining hall with their class and extra-curricular schedule and consequently certain times are over or under-staffed.

“The first-years’ schedules all tend to be similar, and they are usually scared of fitting in work between classes,” Smith said. “So, lunches are understaffed, while breakfasts and dinners are more overstaffed.”

For more popular departments, the new restrictions on the placement of first-years have not ironed out labor problems either. As it grows, OIT is experiencing more labor shortages, due to the many demands of different departments on the financial aid office. Seth Rogers, an instructional technology specialist at the OIT, commented that “We are a little bit understaffed this year, as we have fewer STCs (student technology consultants) than last year, and we are trying to do more with them.”

He explained that OIT has grown steadily during the past few years and this year merged with the Audio Visual Department. Presently the Department employs 70 people, triple the number it employed two years ago. While 20 of these students work in the Audio Visual Department, the other 50 are employed as Student Technology Consultants (STCs).

In the past, some departments report that they have had difficulty attracting returning workers. While the majority of first-year students are assigned to Dining Services, only about 40 percent take the same jobs when they return as upperclassmen.

“The number of returning sophomores has been down the last couple of years,” Cutler said. He attributes this decline to campus expansion, the changing economy and student attitudes, saying, “Students don’t need to work as much as they did ten years ago, and some students feel it is demeaning to work in Dining Services.”

In response to this problem, the review board updated the pay schedule by compensating students for the degrees of experience and effort that they bring to work. Previously, there were four levels of salary, differentiating between students with monitoring jobs, first-year workers, returning workers, and managers. This year there are six levels of pay, with added incentives for upper class students returning to the same job they occupied during the previous year.

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