Service is the cornerstone of the Wellesley experience. With a motto that declares “Not to be ministered unto, but to minister,” how could it not be? However, my cynical self can’t hear that motto without wondering for whom it was truly meant and in what spirit it was rst devised. Who are we, as students, meant to serve: our community or the college administration?
This semester, we’ve seen financial services fail to pay RAs and HPs on time and the administration lay off three greenhouse workers who have devoted years of their lives to the college in favor of non-union workers. Yet, in addition to these publicized injustices, student workers across campus continue to be underpaid and undervalued for their work. If the money is not given to those who perform the daily tasks of keeping this college running, where is it going?
According to the 2016 990 Form (which the IRS requires federally tax-exempt institutions to file each year), President Bottomly received a reported compensation of $508,756 in 2015, with an additional estimated compensation of $106,589 from the college and related organizations. Similarly in 2015, Chief Investment Officer Deborah Kuenstner received a reported compensation of $1,399,422 with an additional estimated compensation of $34,828. Clearly, $1,399,422 is not enough to live on, so I for one am glad we didn’t skimp on the extra $35,000. It wouldn’t suit an institution as fine as Wellesley to neglect to pay someone for the full value of their work.
Unfortunately, this information is not shocking. It is merely representative of a culture that relies on the exploitation of the working class to serve and support the wealthy elite. As a student body, we must demand better of our school. Groups like Student Labor Action Project (SLAP) have worked tirelessly to advance workers’ rights on this campus, but there is much more work to be done.
We are the reason this college exists. Why, then, do most of us sit complacently by and let the college do as it pleases? The answer is not a comfortable one. Students who do not receive financial aid or work study have little personal incentive to get involved in labor issues. Like society at large, it often falls to those who are touched by a problem to take action.
While those of us who have jobs on campus are certainly fortunate, we shouldn’t let that keep us from critiquing our departments and remaining silent when we are exploited. And we are, and will be, exploited. That’s one of the few certainties in life.
Of course, Wellesley is not alone in exploiting student labor and grossly overpaying administrative staff. But here, we can do something about it. When SLAP sends out a petition, sign it and share it with your friends. When they host an event, attend and bring your friends. If you believe you deserve a raise, talk to your boss. If you’re supposed to get a raise but discover that it hasn’t yet taken effect, be a thorn in the side of financial services until you are rightly reimbursed. If you or your parents receive an email or phone call about making a donation, declare that no donation will be made until Wellesley changes its treatment of the working class. And, if you think the resource distribution on campus is unjust, talk to your friends, professors and the administration about it.
Workers’ rights should be an ongoing, ever-changing conversation. It should be loud and uncomfortable. And it should strive to improve the lives of everyone on campus, whether they be a temporary student worker in Bates dining hall or a longtime Greenhouse employee. Come on, Wellesley, let’s start talking.