After returning from winter break, some Kenyon Bookstore student employees were surprised to find that their work hours for the spring semester had been reduced. Students noticed this change when they checked their online work schedules upon returning to campus. Students felt confused and concerned about the reduction, because they were not notified about the changes.
“That was a huge source of stress for me,” one of the student workers, Sally, said. (Sally requested that her name be changed for the sake of anonymity.) She is financially independent and relies on her income from the bookstore. The reduction in work hours led her to seek a second job, which she said was harder to find during the second semester.
Another student who works at the Bookstore, Dylan, is also is looking for another job to supplement their income. (Dylan also requested that their name be changed for the sake of anonymity.) “There are not a lot of jobs — that is another reason why this is bad,” Dylan said. “It is hard to find a job when you are two days into the semester, when you are a week into the semester rather than over winter break.” As of now, this student has not found a new job.
Sally said that she was able to find her second job because she approached her current employer first. “I ended up being lucky enough to get a second job elsewhere,” she said. Both students had one of their shifts cut, reducing their weekly work from 11 to six and 10 to five hours. This cut in shifts reduced Dylan’s income from $89.65 to $48.90 and Sally’s income from $81.50 to $40.75 per week. They both said that they enjoyed the work environment of the Bookstore and their co-workers, so the unnotified change felt especially disrespectful.
General Manager of the Bookstore Angus MacDonell later sent out an email to student workers to explain the reason for the change in work hours. The Collegian contacted MacDonell on Feb. 5 alerting him to the situations of the student workers. On Feb. 6, he sent an email to the student workers. “I apologize for my inadequate communication regarding this and hope to do better in the future,” he wrote in the email.
During the early weeks of the fall semester, the Village Market was open for limited hours, according to MacDonell. Due to this, the Bookstore saw a significant increase in business and customer visits in the evening and night hours. This increase allowed more students to work at night. “As the market ramped up their hours, our sales leveled off to more usual levels late in the term resulting in much less work for students to perform at night,” MacDonell wrote in an email sent to student workers and forwarded to the Collegian. “A reduction in labor was necessary in response to the significant change in sales and customer visits.”
MacDonell said that 10 out of the 13 students have two shifts, and that he would contact the remaining three students who only have one shift. “I anticipate that after we move back to our renovated space in mid-March that student and community customer visits will increase in the evenings as we make study and meeting space available once again,” MacDonell wrote. “That will help ensure everyone will have two shifts available for the remainder of the academic year.”
Dylan hopes that the Bookstore management realizes the impact of the change they made and that students become more aware of their rights as workers. “I would want for other students to … understand what they are entitled to at work, and work at a larger context,” Dylan said.