MAT SCOTT ‘19
As a Denison student, most (if not all) of us were offered some type of work award, whether it be federal work-study or a Denison work award that is not federally funded. This system lets students get jobs on campus to earn some extra money. Sounds great, right?
The problems come with the ways in which this system is administered. All student positions have the same pay rate of $8.75 per hour, which is above the Ohio minimum wage of $8.10. However, this across-the-board equality ultimately causes inequality when it comes down to the type of work being performed for that $8.75. I’m a head lifeguard, swim instructor and lifeguard instructor down at the pool; my shifts may be anything from guarding the varsity swim team to teaching a class of nine kids aged four to eleven years old for an hour to training new lifeguards in lifesaving CPR and first aid skills. All of this for $8.75 an hour.
A lifeguard’s job can easily be watered down to three words: to guard lives. But it definitely isn’t that simple. We have to go through extensive and expensive training as well as recertify every couple of years in order to continue working, which can be also be an additional expense. The fact that people who are responsible for the lives of those whom they are watching get paid the same as someone who sits at a desk and does homework seems a little ridiculous to me. If you throw in the additional responsibilities of a head lifeguard (supervising the guards, ensuring that the shifts run smoothly, and knowing emergency procedures forward, backward, and sideways) or a swim instructor (preparing lesson plans outside of class, teaching lessons to anywhere from one to nine kids at a time, etc.) and you find yourself with even more reason for a pay differential.
The identical pay rates also offer no incentive for hard work. Rather than competing for a higher-paying position that may be somewhat more labor-intensive, students compete for the jobs that require the least amount of work and still get paid. If everyone gets equal reward regardless of how much effort they put forth, what’s the point of doing anything more than the bare minimum? And don’t say, “The pride of doing things right” or, “The joy of hard work” because, let’s face it, we live in a society where people try to get by with as little work as possible.
The other major problem I have with the work-study system is the hour cap. I understand that administrators want to make sure that students are putting their classes first and not working so much that they neglect schoolwork, but cutting students off when they reach their limit for the year causes more problems than it alleviates. For example, I have a Denison work award (which is different than federal work-study) of $2,625 for the 2015-2016 school year. That breaks down to 300 hours at the student pay rate. Once I hit that $2,625 pay cap, I am not allowed to work anymore. I know a student who graduated last year that got cut off for this exact reason. All of the shifts she was scheduled to work had to be reassigned halfway through the semester because she was not allowed to work any more hours.
The work-study program is something that could benefit greatly from an update. While I understand that students are not at Denison to make a living, cutting students off and paying identical rates across the board eliminates the incentive for anything other than minimal job performance. This makes students unwilling to work for the school and more likely to take an off-campus job, one that will either pay them better or give them better hours, in which case that work award money becomes unusable.