According to spam displayed across campus, Resident Assistants (RAs) and House Presidents (HPs) were promised by an unnamed individual that they would be paid the first of four installment of their stipend on the 15th of Sept. However, student leaders experienced a six-day delay in their compensation. In response to the delay, student leaders led by the House Presidents Council (HPC) launched a social media and spamming campaign to bring attention to the issue across campus.
In a collective statement by HPC, the HPs stressed that they love the work they are doing on the behalf of the community. However, they feel it is disrespectful that they weren’t paid in a timely manner like other workers at Wellesley.
“We are student leaders and love the work we do at Wellesley, but it is misinformed to assume that because we are students, we do not have financial responsibilities or deadlines . . . This was why we decided to bring campus-wide attention to the issue and start the conversation about clearer communication around our salary and defining Res Staff’s place on this campus,” wrote HPC.
Since the HPC Facebook event was created, 669 people have showed their support by either replying “going” or “interested” in the event. Students have shared the event widely and included personal anecdotes in their posts conveying their discontent with the situation. HPC created an online timekeeper to measure how long it takes for each student leader to receive payment. Several alums also commented their discontent on the Facebook event and asked students how they could be of help in the effort to get RAs and HPs paid.
According to the Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Joy St. John, the reason for the delay in the processing the stipend can be attributed to staff changes and the college’s transition to an online system to process check requests.
“We had transition in the staff this summer, and the implementation of Workday, which meant that we had a new person managing the process and we were no longer able to process the payments using the paper system we had in the past. In that transition, SFS wasn’t able to process the information on time which was our responsibility to do. When we realized that the payments hadn’t been processed, we looked for a resolution and solution”, said Dean St. John.
Student leaders are unique in that they are not on the payroll. Instead, they receive a stipend which is processed as a check request. Dean St. John clarified that since Student Leaders receive a stipend and not wages on payroll, they are not considered employees of the college.
“They [student leaders] are not considered employees, so they receive four stipends during the year,” commented Dean St. John.
Although student leaders are not considered employees of the college because of their different method of compensation, student leaders view themselves as employees.
“We are employees of the College, and as such we have a right to expect timely, scheduled payment for our work,” wrote HPC.
“During training, they told us multiple times that Residential Life student leaders’ roles are distinct from that of other student leaders because we are employees of the college. We…follow stricter guidelines, and the college is liable for our actions on the job,” said Michelle Chin ’19, a second-year RA in Severance Hall.
The Office of Residential Life was not available for comment.
Last year was the first year RAs were officially paid. In the years before that, according to former RA and current Shafer Vice President Sam Lanevi ‘18, RAs were paid using the Student Leadership Stipend, a ballot initiative which allocated the money left over from Student Activities funding to student leaders.
Back then, Lanevi said, the labor of student leaders was “valued by the students, but maybe not by the College. I think the College definitely—not underappreciates per se—but doesn’t fully recognize the impact that RAs and HPs have on campus. I know that they definitely acknowledge it during leadership training—like, ‘you guys are doing great, thanks so much for paying it forward,’ like, the Wellesley motto, ‘non ministrari sed ministrare,’ the whole deal as usual.”
After Suzanne Barth, the student who had spearheaded the SLS ballot initiative for a few years, graduated in 2017, “there was an increased urgency to make it institutional,” Lanevi said.
Although this is the second full year in which RAs will be paid, no one—including current RAs—is certain about how their pay is processed or who is paying them.
Dean St. John assured that there are now mechanisms put in place to ensure that student leaders receive their stipends on time in the future, stating, “We have a process in place now where we feel confident that the student leaders will receive their stipends on the dates that were agreed upon.”
Although the issue of the delay has been resolved between administration and student leaders, there still seems to be confusion as to how Student Leaders pay is processed by the college.
“Despite still not knowing exactly how our stipend is processed, we now know why this delay occurred and who we can contact in case a similar situation ever arises in the future. HPC is very pleased and grateful to the administration for their prompt response and action, and we plan on taking steps to work with the administration in order to address the issues raised in this campus-wide conversation,” wrote HPC.
Chin echoed these statements, saying she also isn’t quite sure how her stipend is processed, but added that she understands that there has been a lot of changes in SFS which could attribute to this confusion.
“I think the administration is figuring that out themselves—they had a lot of turnover this year. I do know it is done by Student Financial Services and deposited through Accounts Payable,” remarked Chin.
“What I do know is that personal lives were affected by the college’s lack of planning, because even if that was a clerical error, it’s something that really shouldn’t have happened,” said Lian Nicholson ’20, an RA in Shafer Hall. “We’re staffed by the college, and if other people could be getting paid for jobs that they’re doing, I don’t see a reason why there was a huge clerical error for a huge group of people that do so much for the college.”
The office was very apologetic and promised to help Student Leaders with financial troubles that may have resulted from the delay in payment. As of Sept. 15, most student leaders have received their stipend. The online countdown will continue until all of them have been paid.