I became a student worker in a time of uncertainty and confusion. As a first year in the fall of 2020, I had no previous connections established within the Kenyon community, which, combined with the pandemic, made finding a job all the more difficult. After applying to several positions and only hearing back from two, I thankfully was able to secure a job as a Helpline consultant, a job which I thoroughly enjoy.
However, I found this process to be more challenging than I originally anticipated. As a work-study student, I feel an increased sense of pressure because finding a job is crucial to my ability to attend Kenyon. Additionally, there have been instances at this school where a lack of communication has led to confusion. While the College has been transparent on testing procedures and classroom policies during the pandemic, it has not made our work policy clear.
For example, I was not aware that I would still be able to get paid for hours lost due to COVID-19 policy implementations throughout the 2020 fall semester. I was also surprised and dismayed to learn that this policy was reversed in spring 2021. While members of the Kenyon Student Worker Organizing Committee (K-SWOC) took it upon themselves to write a letter to the administration asking for a review of the policy, a recognized union of student workers would guarantee that the administration would not be able to change my work conditions without negotiating first with me and my colleagues.
Although there are issues like at any other workplace, I love my job at Helpline and am very fortunate that I was hired in my first semester. Helpline adds a layer of fulfillment to my experience as a member of the Kenyon community. I am becoming more familiar with the people who make up our campus, and am helping users solve any technological issues they may be facing. Each time I succeed in helping a user, I have a small rush of joy from both helping the individual and solving the problem!
By attending the K-SWOC general meetings and hearing about the unfair treatment others have experienced as Kenyon student workers, I learned that signing a union card is a very simple first step towards building a better working environment and the key to holding a union election. I signed my union card for myself, my fellow workers, and for a student union that will represent all of our best interests. A recognized union will allow student workers a seat at the table to advocate and bargain for fair wages, fair treatment, sick leave and many other basic workplace rights that we don’t currently have. In order to see this through and reap the benefits of a union, it is important for every student worker to sign a union card.
I’m both a student and a worker —and being one doesn’t make me less of the other. We’re in a unique position; sometimes these roles collide, but this doesn’t mean we should be penalized for it. We need to ensure that our rights are not encroached upon and that we have a say in matters that directly affect us. Without a unified platform to share our experiences, we hold no power. A union will bring attention to the unique issues we face as student workers, ensure that we receive proper treatment, and allow us to cooperate with the administration in improving the workplace. I believe this is the right step towards a better workplace, and I strongly encourage any student worker who supports these statements to take this step with me in signing a union card and joining K-SWOC on the path forward in forming a recognized union of student workers.
Carissa Kieger ’24 is a film major from Cleveland, Ohio. She can be reached at email@example.com.