North Texas Daily

UNT needs to pay its student workers entirely

UNT needs to pay its student workers entirely

UNT needs to pay its student workers entirely
March 23
09:00 2021

When you navigate to the student employment section of the University of North Texas’ Career Center website, you’ll probably see an array of diverse and happy-looking students who seem to love to work for the university they also attend.

Underneath that photo you’ll find some facts about employment at UNT, and then the sentence “Working at UNT is ideal for students due to convenient location, flexible scheduling, social networking, and the opportunity to develop relevant, transferable skills.” While becoming a student worker does seem to come with all those perks, there is one thing the university has been iffy about: paying its student workers. 

UNT has already had a speckled past with paying its student workers since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it seems when crisis comes, the university administration’s instinct is to tighten up the purse strings.

All UNT students living in Texas this semester experienced a “once-in-a-generation” winter storm last month and as a result, many student workers were unable to make it to their scheduled shifts for the entire week. Now, the university certainly didn’t expect workers to show up with roads covered in snow and ice, but unlike other businesses, they did not offer any backpay for the hours students were unable to work due to the storm. 

Now, some student workers have received backpay if they were beneficiaries of the CARES act, a federally funded program giving monetary aid to university students during the pandemic. If they were eligible, they also got a small bonus “to offset lost income” from the winter storm. I’m glad that those student workers got some compensation, but to limit who receives backpay during a climate disaster is borderline criminal. That money could be going to buy food for students after they lost power and everything in their fridge went bad, or to help pay for the maintenance and replacements of things broken during the storm. This is a time when students are already financially hurting, both due to the pandemic and now to a climate disaster, and UNT is really deciding to pinch pennies?

I could wax poetic on how the university needs to respect the labor given to it by its student workers, but I wanted to share the feelings of a student worker who hasn’t received any backpay for the hours she lost. 

“To me, it doesn’t seem right that we aren’t being compensated at all for missing a week that affected every single person in North Texas.” UNT student worker Raven Celeste, class of ’23, said via twitter. She said the university did extend its regular working hours so workers could try and earn extra wages this week, but this is not an easy solution. “I appreciate the university for allowing us to make up for the time by extending hours but some of us can’t do that due to having to catch up with classes that were also missed that week.”

Celeste is echoing sentiments from hundreds of students who have experienced a heavy workload from classes in the weeks after the storm, as professors rush to get back on track with their semester plan. 

Celeste asked for the administration “to try to put yourselves in our shoes.”

She said, “You’re juggling classes, but most if not all are online. You’re working on campus and making just enough for rent and groceries. All of a sudden there’s this storm that causes multiple power outages, water shortages, and property damage. At the end, the snow has melted but you now have to try to find a way to scrap up the money missed from the week you were out.” 

The sad fact is that Celeste is one of many students all in a very similar situation. I hope the university provides backpay, but I have to be honest in saying that I’m definitely skeptical. If UNT is going to keep profiting off of already under-paid student workers, then the least they could do is pay them with money that has already been set aside. 

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

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Javi Cavazos Weems

Javi Cavazos Weems

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