Student workers not expendable

By Editorial Board

By 2019, Chicago’s minimum wage will increase to $13 thanks to the efforts of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City Council to raise the standard of living for Chicago residents. With the new ordinance, the minimum wage will reach $10 in July and increase each year for the next four years. It will be years before it can be determined whether this wage hike succeeds in lifting thousands above the poverty line, but it seems like progress.

The minimum wage increase is an opportunity for the college to provide its student workers with the compensation a college student needs and deserves—money that will be returned to the college, as it facilitates retention. However, the college’s administration has taken this opportunity to screw over its student workers by failing to prepare for the minimum wage increase and its impact on student jobs. Instead of seizing this opportunity, the college will instead be eliminating student jobs and cutting hours in order to meet the bottom line.

Students should not be punished for the administration’s shortcomings. The inability to raise money for the college has already  resulted in a 3 percent tuition increase and budget cuts that will further diminish the quality of services. The decision to take away jobs that can accommodate students’ intensive schedules is reprehensible. These changes should not and will not be suffered gladly. 

The decision to cut student jobs and limit hours only serves the administration and its need to balance the budget. By limiting hours, students will be paid the same amount they are now for the same work they are doing now, despite hopes that a wage increase would enable students to earn more. It is an abuse of power to alter the compensation of students just to compensate for the administration’s poor budgeting. 

The college’s administrators clearly feel the pressure to tighten their belts, but arguing that the experience students gain from campus jobs, rather than the compensation they are due, is the same asinine and weak argument used to justify unpaid internships. 

If students are performing the same tasks an outside individual would be hired to do, they should be paid the same amount as an outside individual. If students are to be paid less for a position they could hold elsewhere—perhaps at a place that holds more clout than Columbia ever could—there is no doubt that working for the college is a foolish decision. 

But the college offers opportunities and experience that cannot easily be found in the real world. Many of the student jobs that Columbia offers pave the way for successful careers in the arts.

From receptionists to tutors to editors-in-chief of publications, the many positions students can apply for and add to their resumes are invaluable for entering the real world workforce. However, students should not have to sacrifice their time and energy for unfair compensation. 

What the administration seems to be overlooking is the significance of student jobs and the role each job plays within the college community. To haphazardly cut student jobs across the board without taking into consideration the value of the job is negligent and only serves to further antagonize  students. 

The college depends on alumni donations to stay afloat, but to build future support from alumni, administrators should look to cultivate the satisfaction and approval of current students. Taking jobs from them and paying them less than they deserve is reflective of an out-of-touch administration that does not have the foresight to ensure donations from future alumni.

The future of the college is not just in the hands of the administration, but also in the hands of the students and the alumni they will soon become. A failure to recognize the significance of student jobs is a failure to recognize the needs of the college.