Kenyon’s Board of Trustees decided to revoke for next year the housing discounts of all student employees, including CAs, workers at the Brown Family Environmental Center, the heads of the Crozier Center for Women and Unity House and Kenyon student farmers, like myself. All these student employees will now have to pay the cost of full campus housing (except for a discounted rate for CAs). The cost of housing is increasing by $2,320 per year for a single and $1,420 for a double.
The College is asking students affected by these cuts to work more hours per week at their current hourly wage to make up the roughly $60,000 it is saving on the housing discounts. But this system will result in all student employees earning less than they did this year, while spending thousands more on housing.
I am only allowed to bill the College for 15 hours of work per week at the statewide minimum wage of $8.10/hour. My room discount is $1,300 per year. Next year, the student farmer who takes over my room will be paying $3,520 more than I am in housing costs alone. The College is compensating for this added fee by asking student farmers to work an extra five hours a week at $8.10/hour. But if the student farmer who replaces me works a full 20 hours a week every week of the academic year, they will earn $1,215, $85 less than what they would have earned the year before without the room cost inflations. The school is telling their employees they are spending the same amount of money on student employee salaries next year as they did on housing discounts this year, when this is clearly not the case. This eight-percent decrease means the administration is letting down student employees. And the eight-percent cut in salary still does not include the $2,320 more the school is asking for the room.
I want to remind you the majority of student employees receive financial aid. Students who work 60 hours a week between their school work and jobs — students who are on financial aid, who need these jobs to pay for college — are giving up a significant portion of their wages to spend thousands more on housing. The school is taking money from some of its poorest and hardest-working students, and has the audacity to “compensate” them by raising the number of hours it makes them work per week. A young woman the Kenyon Farm hired was in tears telling me how badly she needs the money she will receive from working. It is financially strenuous for a student to have to hold a job at Kenyon, and that is classist and absurd.
The three student wage rates are $8.10, $9.30 and $10.40. These wages must be increased. If all student employees were paid just one dollar more per hour, this would still be less than the money the school spends on housing discounts. It would ease the increasing financial burden the school places on its poorest and most overworked students.
The administration has been making decisions all year without regard for the student body’s well-being and this last offense is too egregious to take lying down. As a student employee who has not worked under a 60-hour work week this year, who can’t remember the last time he worked under 50 hours in a week, who has lost relationships and hours of study time to his campus job, I am taking a stand. I cannot sleep at night knowing the overworked and underprivileged members of the student body are going to be put in a position of even greater stress and inequality next year than they are in now.
Dante Pilkington ’16 is an English major from Brooklyn, N.Y. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.