Cut less, consult more: The College should rethink student employment cuts

Editorial Board

Inflation has pushed the College to cut managers’ budgets by 15 percent and reduce student employment funding by 33 percent, or $1 million, next year by decreasing the number of jobs and work hours offered to students.

As students, we are concerned about the implications of these cuts. Last year, Manager of Student Employment Janine Burt wrote to the Record about the elimination of the College’s work-study requirement. “Those students who wish to earn income from a campus job, even with an all-grant financial aid program, will still have the opportunity to do so,” Burt stated.

But now the College seeks to cut student employment funding by a third. This will reduce the amount of money flowing to students — and many students rely on that money to cover expenses. Next year, tuition is expected to increase, and inflation is expected to persist. The College’s student employment cuts are a move in the wrong direction: Students will have fewer opportunities to earn and learn, despite growing expenses.

Not only does student employment provide us with valuable opportunities to generate income, but it also allows us to gain professional skills and engage with the wider community. While the College has committed to keeping teaching assistant positions as they stand, many jobs that the College may view as “non-essential” — such as assisting in local classrooms through the Center for Learning in Action — are also excellent opportunities to serve the surrounding community.

The Record understands that the College needs to balance its revenues and expenditures, but we feel that in the face of inflation, cutting student employment is not the best solution. Even if cuts must happen, students should be consulted early and often about what form these should take, whether it be through a feedback form, an open forum, membership on a committee, or other avenues. Students should not be left in the dark about major decisions that primarily impact them.

Some on-campus jobs offer unique learning and enrichment opportunities, including chances to work closely with professors and staff who aren’t otherwise easily accessible. While off-campus jobs are viable options for many students, they are more concentrated in the service industry and limited in quantity.

We recognize that local businesses provide an alternative source of jobs — but we doubt that they have the ability to compensate such a significant shortfall in student pay, especially considering recent inflation. The College is better financially equipped than local businesses — and has a greater duty to us as students — to provide student employment.

Many jobs on campus, like working in Special Collections, maintaining Hopkins Forest, and writing about campus athletics, are enriching activities to students — and the College may well ask for us to continue completing them but without pay. However, as seen with the switch from paid to volunteer positions for in-class note takers, this process can leave many roles unfilled and students without compensation for their previously paid labor.

If these cuts are unavoidable, student opinions must be taken into consideration when deciding which jobs to prioritize. Students have held these jobs and experienced the benefits that they provide — and thus have crucial insight about which jobs are most valuable. While we understand that these decisions are ultimately made by the provost, senior staff, and Board of Trustees, we urge them to reconsider cuts to student jobs.

This editorial represents the opinion of the majority of the Record editorial board.