President Decatur recently informed the Kenyon community through a News Bulletin that the administration is “conducting a comprehensive review of student employment.” The members of the Kenyon Student Worker Organizing Committee (K-SWOC) appreciate President Decatur, members of Campus Senate and the Board of Trustees’ focus on student employment. However, we want to recognize that these long-overdue actions would not have occurred without the organizing efforts of student workers.
President Decatur’s message noticeably avoided any explicit mention of K-SWOC’s campaign, despite his receipt of two public requests for recognition. Ignoring the union campaign erases the aforementioned work done by hundreds of student workers. Through countless conversations, meetings and public forums, we have organized to fight harassment and discrimination on the job, arbitrary firings, job inaccessibility and insecurity, unfair pay tiers and threats to our mental health. Today, a majority of student workers want their voices heard through a union.
Without the attention of Campus Senate or the Board of Trustees, student workers in K-SWOC have already organized together to accomplish several achievements:
- Win a $1.25 per hour (13-percent) pay raise and $1,000 additional housing subsidy for all Community Advisors.
- Secure remote employment for LBIS Desktop Service Assistants and student workers at the Kenyon Farm, saving multiple work-study jobs.
- Establish a mentoring program in the Writing Center to provide additional training to new hires, which gives experienced Writing Center Consultants more paid hours and fosters a greater sense of community in the workplace.
- Begin a process with LBIS management to revise terms of employment to add workplace protections for student workers.
- Earn the support of dozens of student organizations, members of the faculty, Kenyon parents and alumni, labor unions on this campus and across the country and U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Sherrod Brown.
The College’s delayed and vague response to student workers’ demands inadequately addressed pressing issues, like the lack of workplace protections, COVID-19 safety concerns and understaffing, facing student workers right now. We should not have to wait for members of Campus Senate and the Board of Trustees — who do not represent student workers — to decide what is in our best interest. We know what is best for our work and our lives: a union of student workers that fights for us.
We encourage all student workers to participate in these forums, and we look forward to engaging President Decatur and the Board of Trustees in continued conversation. We are certain that if the administration approaches this process in good faith, it will arrive at the same conclusion student workers did months ago: The student employment system at Kenyon is broken. We need a solution to fix the problem; we need a path forward, and a majority of student workers already believe that path starts with forming a union.
Regardless of the outcome of the Oct. 7 town hall and future administration-run forums or committees, K-SWOC will continue to support student workers. We believe that a student worker union is the only institution capable of granting student workers joint decision-making power over their employment, and we will continue to push for its recognition.
–K-SWOC Steering Committee
If you are a student worker and want a voice in your workplace, sign up to become a member here and contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.