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Challenges of financial security, safety: student employment during pandemic

Challenges of financial security, safety: student employment during pandemic

Challenges of financial security, safety: student employment during pandemic
July 23
16:21 2020

The Career Center will see just as many student employee positions filled for fall as in previous semesters despite the challenges the pandemic has posed and the uncertainty some students face around safety and financial security.

Student employment was affected by COVID-19 in the spring, though positions have been refilled, Patricia Chastain, the Career Center’s Associate Director Student Employer, said.

“Currently, we have 4,971 [positions filled], but some students may have multiple positions,” Chastain said. “So, we’re pretty on target. At the beginning of March, it drastically affected student employment, but we’re getting back to normal. We average 5,500 and 6,000 student employees in the big semester, so I’d say we’re about 80 to 85% and some of them are remote workers. With around 800 working multiple jobs, we have 4,171 students on-campus.”

Fashion merchandising junior Sanskriti Telang has worked at Willis Library since October 2019 and said working at Willis during the pandemic has been good.

“Our work moved online by the end of the spring semester which gave us enough time to adjust to this new system of working before summer started,” Telang said. “Recently, we moved things back to Willis as we plan to gradually make the shift to the library altogether.”

While still employed, Telang has still felt the financial strains of the pandemic.

“As an international student, my financial situation is also suffering because my parents are not able to send me money,” Telang said. “But staying at home is sort of helping me cut down on expenses. As a junior, I was hoping to start my internship this summer. But that could not happen now for the obvious reasons.”

Latin and Mexican American studies junior Madeline King worked at Murchinson Performing Arts Center. King said she has not had it easy since the pandemic started and fall semester looks uncertain.

“I think I’m still employed,” King said. “But obviously everything was canceled so my last shift was the week before spring break. I was supposed to work a lot of hours in April — didn’t happen — and my summer job has been affected too. Our event coordinator encouraged us all to look for different job opportunities and offered. I’m glad they kept us safe. But I feel left behind in terms of financial assistance and finding employment, especially because I’m an out-of-state student.”

King was able to keep her summer job, but her usual on-campus employment as an usher at MPAC is still uncertain.

“I was pretty stressed about how I was going to be able to pay for groceries next semester if things were still bad,” King said. “Luckily, my summer job ended up being modified to do our programs via Zoom, so I will be getting paid this summer. But because I won’t be able to usher in fall, I don’t know what the future holds financially.”

As for the university’s safety guidelines, which can be found on UNT’s Systems webpage, Telang was complimentary of them.

The UNT System has provided employees with safety guidelines to navigate the pandemic, including an FAQ for questions like what an employee should do if they contract COVID-19 or if their childcare is impacted by school closures.

“At all times the strategy will be focused on minimizing risk, while simultaneously optimizing our performance and the services we provide to our institutions,” the UNT System COVID-19 working conditions page said.

While Telang said she commends the measures taken by the university, it all comes down to how students on campus behave.

“One thing that could be added is safety measurement training required for all the students before the fall semester starts,” Telang said. “It could be a part of the curriculum for the fall semester. Another thing that we could do is educate the people more. I believe there are still many people who believe the virus or the ‘numbers’ are a hoax and do not see how important it is to wear masks and practice social distancing.”

Despite measures in place, King said she is conflicted about returning to work because of pre-existing breathing problems.

“I still want to work on campus so I can have a reliable income,” King said. “But I have asthma and I worry that I’ll be exposed to the virus. I know there are remote positions I could apply to. But they usually don’t pay very high above minimum wage. It’s hard to bring money home to California when it ends up being worth a lot less. I’m still searching, but I’m not very optimistic about my prospects for fall.”

King said she thinks it would benefit students if the university provided more financial assistance to students.

“I know some people are probably going to find off-campus jobs that are higher risk,” King said. “I’d also like to see more extensive protective measures for people working in offices.”

Featured Image: The Career Center is located inside of Chestnut Hall, along with the Student Health and Wellness Center and other student services. The same amount of student employee positions are filled for the upcoming semester as past semesters, positions will continue while still facing the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Image by Ricardo Vazquez Garcia

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Will Tarpley

Will Tarpley

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