The Orion

Student employees need more protections

Joseph Rogers

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Illustration by Trevor Moore

What is the goal of a college education? To obtain professional work in a chosen field, right? That doesn’t always seem to be the case with student employees.

Student employees need a union.

Student assistants on campus are generally coded into one of four different ranks.

Class-one student assistants answer phones and make copies; general office work that is heavily supervised by someone “qualified.”

Class-three student assistants, like the job I first had on campus, are in more technical fields. I came to that job with professional skills already in place from my previous experience. The pay is better too.

My last job on campus was class four: paraprofessional, the highest-ranked position a student can obtain before becoming classified as “qualified” staff. The level of expectations for a paraprofessional student is the same for staff.

Despite the fact that Chico State exists to send out graduates that are prepared for the professional workplace, the departments and administration don’t seem to engage students on that level.

My first job used to hold meetings that students in our more technical areas were supposed to attend. I figured that this would be a space where I could voice an opinion or an idea on a somewhat equal footing.

I have seldom been as wrong as I was then.

One of my student peers voiced an idea that I thought was actually pretty good. It needed some tweaks but was a good idea nonetheless. That idea might as well been a target at a shooting range — shot down with a verbal force equal to a .45.

I saw that peer fold into himself and never speak up in a meeting again.

I’ve heard student assistants talk about being bullied, harassed and belittled in their jobs. Their experiences and ideas are treated like the dog poop that appears on campus — bagged up and tossed in the trash.

Who do they report those instances to? Their department chairs or deans? Deans and chairs don’t want to deal with those issues. Worse yet, deans and chairs don’t have to.

There is no union for assistants to advocate for student worker rights. There is no unified process to address any complaint a student employee has on campus.

However, I understand why the administration wouldn’t want a union for student workers. Imagine a student employee strike.

Academic departments would lose front-line customer service.

Student Affairs departments like records or financial aid would be negatively affected.

Information Technology services and the library would be incapacitated.

Residence halls would simply shut down.

Right now, this campus only functions because of the efforts and labor of student employees. No other class of university employees, faculty, staff, management or administration have so little protections.

I’m very grateful that the last job I held on campus was with professional staff that cared. The most vulnerable employees need a voice and protections. Will the administration listen?

Joseph Rogers can be reached at [email protected] or @JosephLRogers1 on Twitter.

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Student employees need more protections