Students go without pay during Spring Quarter

Students go without pay during Spring Quarter

Photo Credits: Justin Han / Aggie File. Swirlz at the CoHo operating during Fall Quarter 2019.

Unitrans, CoHo, Student Housing & Dining, Campus Recreation try to support students, cannot offer more than a certain amount of leave

Buildings like the ARC, the CoHo and the Peet’s locations on campus have closed for Spring Quarter, and the students who staff those areas have lost a source of income. Unemployment is a repercussion of the COVID-19 pandemic — and nationwide unemployment is now at 13%.

Third-year mechanical engineering major Kayla Flores, who was a supervisor for Peet’s Coffee before the campus closure, said Student Housing & Dining provided her with little notice about the location’s status for Spring Quarter.
“During finals week, Student Housing & Dining Services were still optimistic about staying open, but I knew they wouldn’t,” she said. “Then they emailed us at the start of the quarter saying that they would be closed.”

At the time, Flores didn’t know that the university would be offering Emergency Administrative Leave (EAL), which she called the “UC Davis version of unemployment.” She now works at Food 4 Less, often for 9-hour shifts, while living at home.

“I needed consistent income,” she said. “I don’t get enough parent help or financial aid, and I still have to pay for rent, my phone bill and my car insurance.” 

EAL is being offered throughout the UC system as a way to compensate students who cannot work remotely. It is calculated based on the number of hours students have worked in the past.  

Work-study students who are affected by the pandemic can still be paid with work-study funds, but their employers are not obligated to keep them employed during the temporary closure. UC Davis said students who cannot work remotely and are currently on work-study will be paid until their funds are depleted. 

“We encourage student staff to recommend projects in which their perspective is uniquely valuable in these unusual circumstances,” an FAQ on the UC Davis website reads. Many of the suggestions offered revolve around social media curation and website upkeep. 

Employers themselves are seeking ways to keep students working remotely. ASUCD Business Manager Greg Ortiz called the process “turning stones over multiple times.”

Ortiz said ASUCD is keeping the Bike Barn open for appointments only. He’s also talked with the CoHo about offering delivery services and with Unitrans to see if they can pick up donations to The Pantry from the Yolo County Food Bank. 

Deb Johnson, the director of recreation at Campus Recreation, said via email there were around 200 students — out of approximately 650 Campus Recreation employees — who elected to continue their work at home during Spring Quarter. Johnson said these students are “developing online classes on a variety of wellness topics” for other students to participate in at home.

“Students who are not teaching or leading programming have the opportunity to help create staff training videos, work on our risk management procedures, update and rewrite staff training manuals and help the team stay current with the constant fluid nature of our work right now,” Johnson said.

Employers are also trying to offer work opportunities to students who remain in Davis. Ortiz said CoHo and Unitrans employees were put to work making face shields for the UC Davis Medical Center. And Johnson said Campus Recreation employees are working on a similar project. 

Darin Schluep, CoHo director, said he has notified employees that they can provide culinary support at the UC Davis Medical Center. 

“I am sending weekly emails via our employee listservs with resources and relevant information from the campus,” he said. “We […] are hoping that there will be more opportunities for our employees to earn money as we continue our spring quarter closure.” 

Johnson said student employees at the Equestrian Center or Craft Center who chose to keep working during Spring Quarter remain on campus. 

“Overall, our career staff and student staff are working together to create innovative ways to work remotely,” she said. “During these unique times, many students unfortunately will see reduced hours due to the nature of serving patrons in our facilities versus at-home projects.” 

A reduction in work hours is a problem experienced by a number of student employees. Flores said she’s not getting as much at Food 4 Less as she did at Peet’s, but did say that she gets more hours, since the university restricts how much students can work. 

Fourth-year marine biology major Michael Brito, a driver, route trainer and supervisor for Unitrans, said Unitrans drivers tend to work around 30 hours per week. During Spring Quarter, he said, drivers have been working 10 to 13 hours per week.

Ortiz acknowledged that both the university and ASUCD have a finite amount of money and that they won’t always be able to supplement the reduced income.

“We’re trying to educate people to not use all their EAL in the beginning [of the quarter], but the problem is that we know this pandemic is going to last longer than EAL,” he said.

He added that without the passage of the Basic Needs & Services fee referendum in Winter Quarter, ASUCD wouldn’t have survived the Spring Quarter closures, despite having saved up a reserve of money over the past few years. 

“It’s the second time in two years something like this has happened — since we had the fires last year, and the CoHo alone lost $285,000,” Ortiz said. “The good thing is that we didn’t place a ton of orders, knowing we weren’t sure how much food we needed to have on hand.” 

Employers — not just students — are experiencing financial losses due to the campus closures. 

Flores said she thinks the university should be more understanding about students upending their lives — especially when it comes to student workers. She said she’s been scheduled 40 hours a week and has 30 hours of lecture, not including homework and study time. Although she said she feels grateful to have a job, she’s still overwhelmed. 

“I’m mentally struggling with having to push through it,” she said. “Everything is changing for students. We’re the ones being affected the most and the university can say that they’re here for us and that they understand, but at the end of the day, they’re not giving us good news.” 

Written by: Janelle Marie Salanga — campus@theaggie.org