There can be zero room for errors in paying students for their work
UCPath, the UC system’s new payroll system, wreaked havoc when it was first rolled out at four campuses between early 2018 and January of this year. During that period of time, hundreds of employees said their pay was delayed and raised concerns about inefficiencies in the system. Despite the UC having 22 months between the time of the first campus launch until now to address these issues, the Editorial Board — speaking from personal experience — can confidently say that the implementation of UCPath at UC Davis has been nothing short of an utter nightmare.
UCPath has long been infamous across the UC system. A 2017 state audit found that the payroll system ultimately cost taxpayers $942 million, triple the initial estimated cost of $306 million. The project was also supposed to have been completed by 2014, but current projections estimate system-wide implementation will not be achieved until 2020.
When the system was first rolled out at UCLA, Santa Barbara, Riverside and Merced campuses, hundreds of employees were affected by delayed pay and improper payment amounts and tax deductions. In response, two California lawmakers drafted Senate Bill 698 which ensures that low-income UC workers in particular are paid on time and ends the UC’s “Wage Theft” exemption — which had exempted the UC from paying fines due to payroll violations. The bill was recently signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom and will take effect on Jan. 1, 2020. This bill, though admirable, is too little too late when people’s pay has already been affected.
In response to these very legitimate issues directly affecting people’s livelihoods, spokespeople from the UC Office of the President have repeatedly made excuses, saying issues with the system are to be expected and claiming that 99% of UC employees have been paid accurately and on time. When the Editorial Board asked Chancellor Gary May about issues with UCPath implementation at UC Davis earlier this week, he acknowledged “some issues,” but said the Oct. 1 switchover was “pretty smooth.”
The vast and varied issues with UCPath on campus, however, beg to differ. A number of student employees — ourselves included — have been working paid jobs for months without receiving a paycheck. Graduate student readers will apparently not be receiving their first paychecks until Dec.1, while graduate student readers who worked over Summer Session II received an extra paycheck that they were then told not to cash.
One UC Davis assistant professor tweeted their frustrations with UCPath, saying the process for hiring undergraduates used to take a day, and now it’s taking upwards of a month — “This is not workable. There are only 11 weeks in a quarter.”
As if the reality of having unpaid employees weren’t morally and legally reprehensible enough, the onboarding process itself was terribly inefficient. The California Aggie, which has a number of student workers, received less than 24-hours notice of a mandatory onboarding session via an email message containing incorrect information and defunct links. Figuring out exactly what we needed to do to onboard required an hour-plus phone call with the Shared Services Organization.
We have since run into a number of other issues signing up for UCPath: some of us were successfully cleared to begin work earlier than others for seemingly no reason, only a few of us have actually received paychecks even though we have been working since the start of school and some of us are still not successfully onboarded. On top of all that, it seems like no one in the university can actually provide any clear answers beyond telling us to wait it out.
It is beyond aggravating, beyond frustrating and beyond reason why UCPath continues to cause this much chaos. It is both horrifying and shameful that the UC is knowingly and actively allowing student workers to work without being paid. And it is unacceptable that students are not being compensated and are being given the run-around when they attempt to seek out answers — this suggests a total lack of empathy for our financial burdens, especially as many of us approach the seventh week of the quarter without pay.
Written by: The Editorial Board