As a transfer student, I wasn’t made aware of the job application process the summer before I arrived at Wellesley College. Instead, I was forced to figure everything out myself as I was poking around Workday and saw the “Career” tab. However, by the time I was able and ready to apply, the dreaded “Internal Candidate Identified” plagued almost any job I wanted to apply to. During my first semester, I didn’t have any jobs, which placed a lot of pressure on me — I needed work not for disposable income, but to survive at Wellesley College. My second semester, determined to change that, I applied to as many open on-campus jobs as possible. With little luck, I ended up applying for a massive amount of off-campus jobs. All of this job hunting led me to believe that finding a job at the College was extremely difficult and there had to be systemic reasons for this difficulty.
The distress of finding a job is one that almost everyone I talk to has shared. The stress, endless job applications and hundreds of “Internal Candidate Identified”s all boil down to one problem: Wellesley College does not provide enough on-campus jobs for student workers. This structural unemployment has left a large labor force of student workers competing with one another for the small number of jobs on campus, contributing to the College’s isolating and competitive environment. The effects of this system can be seen in the three phases of a student’s typical job cycle.
Unfair hiring practices.
When job listings open up over the summer, they are first open to work-study students (a federally granted part-time position for college students who meet financial needs). Work-study students are only given a two-week period to apply for jobs before they open up to all students. While this practice allows work-study students to get access to jobs before other students, it does not guarantee that work-study students will be hired. There is nothing keeping employers from waiting a couple of weeks until the general pool applies to select a candidate.
It is no secret that most students get a job through connections (myself included). Students often get jobs by referring their friends to past or current employers or through word of mouth. The network-to-hire model means that first-years, transfer students and those who do not have connections are less likely to get on-campus jobs. When those who have connections use them to benefit their inner circles, it leaves marginalized communities on campus unable to join the labor force.
Jobs Closing, Nothing Reopening.
Students from the Davis Museum, Clapp Library and the KSC’s pool have faced or will face closures within the next couple of semesters. With little communication from administrators, Clapp workers are unsure if they will have a job next semester. Some of the Davis Museum employees continue to work during the shutdown, but many have lost their jobs. And with the pool closing, lifeguards might not have a place to work anymore. While the administration is mindful in their claims that these closures and renovations are necessary, they seem to forget that closing down these locations means that hundreds of students could be unemployed. With no plan to open up new jobs for students, the competition among student workers (and more importantly work-study students) will drastically increase as a kill-or-be-killed mentality forms over the few remaining on-campus jobs.
Jobs Opening, but at Whose Expense?
IMSEUA (the independent union on campus) has spoken about the struggles they have faced with the administration taking away unionized jobs and giving them to student workers. Student workers are cheap labor that do not have the rights laid out by a union contract. With an undergraduate population that is unlikely to unionize (since there is a four year turnover), giving students jobs in the Botanical Gardens and the dining halls ensures that the college does not have to follow the standards set by the union — which is a gateway for them to take advantage of and exploit student workers.
The job insecurity of student workers is problematic, complicated and sometimes feels unsolvable. The demand for the administration to open up more jobs for students could take away jobs from unionized employees. Closures of work sites might mean that there are work-study students without jobs. There may be no perfect solution to this problem, but it’s in moments like this when student workers make their voices heard that we can start coming up with innovative solutions.
Being a student worker feels isolating. The process of finding a job at the start of each school year results in competition, loneliness, and stress that lasts into the school year. However, solidarity and being able to discuss these issues openly can make these stressful times manageable, knowing that we are all going through this together.
For those looking to build community with faculty, staff, student workers, and other peers, come to UniLAd’s Community Cookout on Friday, April 28 on Sev Green. The moments where we can come together in solidarity and community are the ones that allow us to find creative solutions to problems like student unemployment.