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Saturday, July 31, 2021

ASUCD officials share their stories about UCPath issues

UCPath doesn’t work with one person’s bank, another faced missing pay for weeks

Over the past two weeks, The California Aggie sat down with ASUCD President Justin Hurst, Vice President Shreya Deshpande and Senator Anna Estrada to discuss the ongoing effects of UCPath, the UC-wide payroll system implemented at UC Davis in October 2019. The system — which, according to a state audit, cost approximately $942 million to implement on several UC campuses — resulted in many students receiving incomplete paychecks or missing pay altogether. 

In November 2019, employees of the CoHo organized a walkout demanding that student employees who were missing pay be paid adequately. Administrative officials responded by cutting emergency checks in the weeks afterward.

On Jan. 23, the ASUCD Senate passed a resolution urging the campus administration to further acknowledge the lasting damage UCPath caused. During this meeting, Gender and Sexuality Commission (GASC) Chair Elena DeNocochea said she was unable to make credit card payments due to issues with UCPath, and Senator Mahan Carduny talked about a friend who quit their job at the CoHo to work at Philz due to lack of payment. This friend declined to speak with The California Aggie.

 Despite the emergency check measures, UCPath still poses problems, according to Deshpande. 

“I am getting paid now, but my bank is not compatible with UCPath, so my checks don’t come to me at my local address and there’s no way for me to change that,” Deshpande said. “Before, when ASUCD had control over payroll, I could just pick up my paycheck at ASUCD headquarters.” 

Greg Ortiz, the ASUCD business manager, said via email that there “are still ongoing issues,” despite the fact that “pay discrepancies have been dramatically reduced since fall quarter.” Dana Topousis, the chief marketing and communications officer for UC Davis, said in an email that there “may be instances where people erroneously associate any issue as a UCPath issue.” 

According to Ortiz, emergency checks continue to be double and triple checked. He added that ASUCD is planning to meet with senior administrative officials, and that an audit was opened and will eventually be publicized. 

“ASUCD is receiving a lot of individual attention from campus and I believe that the students not only have the attention of UCPath and UC Davis but their voices are being heard,” Ortiz wrote. 

Kelly Ratliff, the vice chancellor of Finance, Operations and Administration, confirmed the audit via email, adding that it will include a survey of 200 student employees who reported having pay issues.

And recently, when The Aggie’s Editorial Board met with Chancellor Gary May, he apologized that students had been negatively impacted by the implementation and said the university tried its best to mitigate the problems by issuing emergency checks. According to May, 355 emergency checks were issued to 320 students.

Still, Hurst described the current payroll system as “extremely slow,” noting that unit directors and activity managers within ASUCD must approve their employees’ pay. The paycheck is then sent to payroll coordinators at ASUCD and is distributed by the university’s Shared Services Organization (SSO). 

“It’s very likely that someone’s pay could be overlooked […] or their payments [might not be] processed on time,” Hurst added. 

Indeed, the problems posed by UCPath had a profound effect on hourly workers in ASUCD. This was the case with Estrada, who said she was not paid a complete check for her job at the ARC until around Jan. 22 — over two months late. The ARC is a part of Campus Recreation and Unions. Ratliff and Emily Galindo, the interim vice chancellor of Student Affairs, had sent an email to students on Nov. 7 resolving to “cut checks twice daily” and encouraging students to “apply online for a UCPath Emergency Pay Advance.” 

Estrada said her problems with UCPath began around October or November. 

“That was when I started noticing that I was getting incomplete paychecks,” Estrada said. “When I talked to my supervisor about it, he would just say that I should go back and check my hours. And so I would go back. And I started noticing that it was constantly happening with every check I was receiving — it was either very late or missing $100 or more.” 

Estrada recalled printing out her bank statements, time sheets and pay stubs, and asking her supervisor why she was still missing pay. 

“After looking at it, he said he didn’t know why this was happening,” Estrada said. “He said I could submit the hours for my next pay period. And that was something I didn’t like, because I was using that money to pay my rent and my bills, and I had to borrow money from my parents for rent. I don’t want to be a financial burden to them.” 

Although Estrada says that the issue has now been rectified, she explained that she’s still “on high alert,” because of what happened. She said that the paycheck she eventually received contained more money than she expected because of how much her previous paychecks had been missing.

Hurst met with UCPath officials over Winter Break. He described their responses during this meeting as “very politician-y” and added that “they very much dodged questions […] even though I tried to corner them afterward.”

“I had probably the most pointed questions [due to what our campus was going through],” he said. “I felt this probably the most personally. I was asking things to the effect of, given that students aren’t being paid, what are we going to do?” 

Jonathan Minnick, the president of the Graduate Student Association and a Ph.D. student in musicology, was also present at the meeting, but described it as “more of a check-up that UCPath likes to have with the student leaders to make sure that they are aware of any lingering issues and to make sure that we have enough support from their office.”

Prior to the UC Davis rollout, Minnick said, he received educational materials and was connected with campus resources to prepare for its implementation, adding that he worked with payroll staff to put together town halls and workshops to educate people about the system. 

“Unfortunately, there were a lot of errors associated with the transition, and it’s very disheartening to hear that students suffered pay issues, especially at the beginning of the year, which is most students’ first paycheck since July,” Minnick said via email. 

Still, he said that graduate students were well-informed about how to correct pay errors. 

“While these issues do still occur, we are very well prepared to handle them,” Minnick said. “I will be honest, I was really afraid of bringing UCPath to Davis because of how many pay errors were occurring.” 

Minnick noted that the Graduate Student Association was also in contact with the union, which previously arranged for students to receive compensation at UCLA. Ultimately, he has had a positive experience working with UCPath. 

“While there have been and continue to be problems, I cannot say enough about how receptive the folks at UCPath have been,” he wrote. 

Deshpande expressed hope that similar compensation measures will be taken at UC Davis. 

“[The union] basically won negotiations with UCLA for compensation, where [students] won $150 if [they] had missed a month of pay, or if a month more [was missing], they got $400 in compensation,” Deshpande said. “Our administration hasn’t done anything about compensation and dodged it by saying that they had put out fliers, which is meaningless to a student seeing a thousand fliers a day. Our hope is that they acknowledge and address this.”

Deshpande also plans to meet with university officials about developing a way for ASUCD to “pay, onboard and hire its employees,” while still using UCPath. ASUCD employees could be “taught” UC Path, they suggested, which means that paychecks would not have to travel all the way to the SSO to be approved and distributed.

Hurst expressed a similar desire to “work with internal personnel, rather than having a centralized hub where people who don’t really know ASUCD take it over.” 

“Student workers really haven’t been a priority of the university and it’s a continuing trend that’s worrying,” Hurst said. 

Written by: Rebecca Bihn-Wallace — campus@theaggie.org 

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