chapel bell

Evening sun shines on the chapel bell in North Campus on an unusually warm day in Athens, Georgia on Tuesday, February 5, 2019. (Photo/Caroline Barnes, http://carolinembarnes.wixsite.com/photography)

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced employers to make drastic adjustments to protect their workers and the people they serve. The University of Georgia is no different. For the most part, I think UGA’s response has been great. The university has moved classes online (as per the instructions from the University System of Georgia), provided meals only through takeout at Bolton Dining Commons and refunded certain student fees and housing and meal plan costs. In one area, however, I have been disappointed with UGA’s response.

UGA is paying non-essential full-time and part-time workers unable to work remotely non-closure emergency paid leave. However, this doesn’t include temporary workers such as student workers.

This is unfair to student workers. Some of them need their jobs to pay for apartments, food, books and tuition. Their work is also vital to the university, and UGA needs its student workers just as much as they need their jobs. During normal times, student workers’ contributions pervade throughout campus. They help serve meals, maintain security, run the libraries and so much more. It’s the university’s moral responsibility to pay them.

This is a personal issue for me. During my freshman year, I worked at Bolton. While there, I became friends with so many hard-working students. Despite needing to balance late nights with school work, I rarely heard someone complain.

Several of them were working so they could afford to go to college. They’d take on extra hours regularly. One person even told me they wished they weren’t required to take unpaid breaks so that they could maximize their earnings. Though I’ve never worked at another campus job, I’m sure other student workers are just as dedicated to their jobs as my friends at Bolton.

Now, however, student workers are in a state of flux. The Red & Black reports that although some can continue working from home, others are left without a job to do or a paycheck to cash. Some students have even reported that they’ve received little communication or mixed instructions from the university, leading to uncertainty and confusion.

There’s nowhere for these workers to turn to for financial relief. As social distancing continues and the economy suffers, jobs will be few and far between. To make matters worse, some college students are ineligible to receive checks from the COVID-19 economic stimulus package signed by President Donald Trump on March 27.

UGA spokesperson Greg Trevor told The Red & Black the university is looking at whether the stimulus package applied to student workers. I hope UGA does this as quickly as possible.

UGA’s response to the novel coronavirus has been strong so far. The steps the university has taken will be invaluable in stopping COVID-19 and protecting the UGA community. However, if the university doesn’t change course and give student workers paid leave, it will be doing a disservice to its employees.

It’s a difficult time for everyone. This is an opportunity for UGA to make it easier for student workers to make ends meet.

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