As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps the globe, the widespread shutdown and shelter-in-place orders have jeopardized many peoples’ incomes and job security. Those who are most affected are often those who cannot afford a loss of employment, even a temporary one. Kenyon, one of Knox County’s largest employers, is working to reduce this stress for its employees. The College currently employs hundreds of students in positions ranging from tour guides to Library and Information Services helpdesk. Many such students at Kenyon receive work-study pay as part of their financial aid package, and others simply rely on their student employment as a source of income. Thankfully, the current threat to job security is not an issue student employees will have to face: The College has announced that they will continue to pay all student employees for the rest of the semester.
In an email sent to the Kenyon community on April 1, President Sean Decatur explained how Kenyon would handle the situation. For the rest of the semester, all students who are currently employed by the College will be retained as remote workers. All student employees will continue to receive pay, as per their regular schedule, through May 8. This applies regardless of whether their jobs can be completed remotely; students who are unable to do their work from afar are instructed to report unworked hours as “Campus Closed” in the time-entry system. This will ensure that they continue to receive normal pay.
“We are committed to ensuring that students are not cut off from income they had expected to earn on campus this semester,” Decatur wrote. “We recognize that some duties will not be able to be performed from afar, but ensuring continuity of income is one way we can provide a buffer in this unsettled environment.”
Kenyon’s employment policy extends beyond students employed directly by the College. It also applies to non-student employees, and to students employed by contractors such as AVI and the Bookstore. In a March 23 post on the Kenyon website, Provost Joseph Klesner explained that the administration would “do everything within [their] means to care for and keep all employees employed for as long as possible.” Students who work for independent contractors will also be compensated during this time as if they were Kenyon employees, receiving normal payment until the semester ends.
Peirce Dining Hall provider AVI is doing its best during the pandemic to support its own staff, students and non-students alike. Currently, Peirce is closed and restricted to essential operations, requiring no more than two to three staff members at a time. AVI director Chris Wisbey is doing all he can to help long-term employees by encouraging them to use vacation and sick days, relaxing attendance policies and creating new leave policies for those who cannot work due to illness or the closure of daycare centers. As for students employed by AVI, Wisbey confirms that Kenyon has promised to compensate them as if they were directly employed by the school. They will receive normal pay until the end of the semester.
The choice to compensate all employees has been rare among similar institutions, and doesn’t come cheaply for the College. However, Decatur is confident in the school’s ability to remain financially stable.
“We actually feel like we’ve had a good financial plan to weather through this semester,” Decatur said in an interview with the Collegian. “Continuing student employment, I think, again, it’s just fundamentally the right thing to do. And we figured out how to basically make this work without causing a deficit. We will be holding off on some projects that might have gotten started earlier. But in the short term it all should be just fine.”