North Texas Daily

UNT does not care about its student workers

UNT does not care about its student workers

UNT does not care about its student workers
July 23
15:30 2020

By: Megan Mitchell

“Nobody knows anything”​ has been the university’s party line since April concerning the purgatory student workers have been stuck in.

Unlike UNT’s administration, here’s a couple things I ​do ​know.
I know I haven’t been paid since May.
I know I’m going to have to take out loans to pay for school this upcoming semester since I couldn’t work all summer.
I know risking my life for $8.10/hr to work First Flight Week is not worth it.

And I know that UNT doesn’t care about student workers.

If you’re a student worker, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to you. But for those of you lucky enough not to be one of the 5,000 students UNT employs, allow me to pull back the curtain of what we’ve been dealing with since the pandemic started.

I work in the Student Union as an A/V technician. If you’ve ever attended a UPC event, a lab band performance, or any other sort of gathering in the building everyone pays $167 a semester for, you’ve probably seen me running from meeting room to meeting room changing out wireless mouse batteries or doing a mic check on stage in the syndicate before karaoke. Either way, we’ve met, you know me.

During the school year, hourly student employees aren’t allowed to work more than 25 hours a week while enrolled in any class. The University’s very transparent reasoning for this is that they want student workers to focus on their studies instead of their job. In reality, they don’t want students getting anywhere near the 40 hour mark where employers are expected to give basic benefits to their workers. During the summer however, if you aren’t taking any classes you can work up to 40 hours a week, but managers rarely let you work more than 30 out of fear of getting in trouble for over-scheduling.

Before all of this started, 25 hour weeks at $8.10 an hour would come out to $810 a month before taxes. Current rates for one bedroom apartments in Denton average out to $936 a month before utilities. It wasn’t a living wage even before the pandemic and it still isn’t, but now we’re just not getting anything.

After everything was shut down, UNT kept workers in the dark for two weeks about if we were going to be paid despite being out of work. On April 15th they announced we would be paid 20 hours a week for the next two weeks and that was it. That was the last time we heard anything actually useful, aside from our managers sending us the national suicide hotline number in our group chat.

Another reason we’re only allowed to work 25 hours a week is because all of our wages have already been put aside and budgeted for the fiscal year by the university. The money to pay all of us is just sitting in the pockets of UNT, already allocated for each student employee. Paying their employees the money that has already been put aside for them wouldn’t cost them any additional money, so why wouldn’t they just pay us?

It’s because they don’t care about us.

From then on, the party line from everyone in charge was that no one knows anything about what’s going on. Shockingly, telling people you don’t know anything is apparently very effective as it rules out nothing and leaves everything open for possibilities. You can’t get mad at people that don’t know anything, it just ends up making you look rabid and unhinged. So if no one knows anything, there’s no one to be mad at, so suddenly I’m no longer angry, right?

Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. Eventually people are going to have to know things if we’re ever going to go back to work. I’m assuming administrators higher up already know what the plans are for this fall, they’re just hesitant to tell us because they know there’s going to be backlash.

First Flight week is still scheduled to go on as an in person/online hybrid according to UNT’s Student Affairs website, but none of my RA friends have any clue what the plan is. From UNT’s perspective, I see why they’re choosing to do this. Incoming students weren’t able to be indoctrinated into loving UNT by being forced to sing the fight song 10 times in a row in a freezing ball room in the union at 7:00 AM or experiencing sexual tension with someone in their orientation group they’re never going to see again.

This is a last ditch effort to make sure students feel confident in their decision to come to UNT this semester for the sense of community instead of staying at home and going to community college. Spoiler alert: that “community” you’re paying for isn’t going to exist since all classes will be online and it’s unlikely any club will be allowed to formally gather.

I’m going to have to run sound and lights for the First Flight Week events in the union in a few weeks and I am terrified. I’m terrified because thousands of people from all across the country will be coming to UNT and if just one of them is sick it could create an outbreak on campus. I am terrified because I don’t get paid sick time. I’m terrified because the only thing the Union has told it’s employees is that we will each be getting two masks for protection.

Student employees demand better from University of North Texas. Minimum wage is not worth risking our lives over and we won’t. Pay us a living wage. Pay us for the summer. Pay us more for working in a pandemic.

Neal Smatresk, open your purse.

Featured Illustration: Olivia Varnell

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North Texas Daily

North Texas Daily

The North Texas Daily is the official student newspaper of the University of North Texas, proudly serving UNT and the Denton community since 1916.

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