At Kenyon, students can be lifeguards, ATs or phonathon callers. Or they can work for the Writing Center, which, with 45 student employees, is one of the most popular paid gigs on campus. And also one of the most unfair.
The Writing Center stands apart from its peers in that it requires students to take a full-credit academic class to work there. In years past it’s been a 0.25-credit class. Now it’s been increased to a regular 0.5 course.
While the course is designed to provide a standardized training regimen, employee testimony suggests it may be unnecessary, and less fruitful than actual experience assisting fellow students. Some students in the course, which meets twice weekly, will likely spend more time learning to do their job than they will actually doing it.
Moreover, the course seems unreasonably onerous in light of the fact that new Writing Center employees are only guaranteed one hour of work weekly — or $9.07 in wages. Returning employees are guaranteed two hours of work. This work can hardly be billed as a true money-making opportunity. A new employee may make around $150 a semester, a pittance compared to the $5,900 per-course tuition cost that Kenyon charges.
We see no compelling rationale for offering 45 students spots on the payroll, and making them all take a full-credit class to stay there, when there’s not nearly enough work for them all.
This past January, the College also discontinued the Writing Center’s much-loved “kindness hours” program, which allowed employees to consult with students outside of the center’s headquarters in Olin and then clock in those hours as paid shifts. Claims that the program went over budget only reflect its popularity. Should the response to a valuable program becoming increasingly popular be to cancel it? Certainly not.
The College, which so publically lauds its writers past and present, should reevaluate how it operates the Writing Center. It could start by finding room in its budget to restore kindness hours. Or by devising a training program that doesn’t require students to give up an actual academic course. In any case, the Writing Center ought to grant its employees more substantial opportunities to work with fellow students, rather than reducing their work hours and miring them in extraneous class work.