Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
According to a draft proposal obtained by the Daily Gazette, Human Resources has proposed student pay category changes to 69 student job definitions at the college. All but four are downgrades; nine shift down two pay categories, from category 3 to category 1. Salary for categories 3 to 1 range from $8.80 to $8.30, declining in intervals of $0.25.
Director of Human Resources Melanie Young confirmed to the Gazette that changes to student pay categories are a part of planned reforms to student employment following the Student Employment Office’s recent absorption into the HR umbrella. “There are a couple of jobs that went up, and there are a couple of jobs that went down,” Young said. “I don’t think it’ll have an overall big effect. There weren’t that many jobs changed to be lower paying.”
The proposal was given to the Daily Gazette by an individual involved in hiring student employees, who requested anonymity due to concerns about their own employment at the College.
HR’s recent focus on the structure of student pay categories arose as part of a larger plan to streamline the student employment process, which includes a phasing out of student pay cards and the advent of an online hour reporting system based on the mySwarthmore sub-site, Young said.
According to Young, HR identified two major inequities regarding student employment: (1) inequality in pay within the same job category, and (2) inequality in job difficulty within pay categories.
“Although some job duties were pretty much the same from department to department, some paid [that job] as a 1, some paid it as a 2, and some paid it as a 3. Depending on which of those departments you were working in, you would get a different pay rate,” Young said.
As for the other perceived inequality, Young said that her office received numerous complaints from students in the highest pay category (3), arguing that the amount of expertise and effort required in their positions was not equitable compared to that of other positions included in the same category.
“So people who were doing jobs that were on the face very difficult and complicated were being paid the same as a student who is an office assistant and stuffing envelopes,” Young said.
The anonymous source said that they thought that having less “skilled” professions in the highest pay categories was acceptable, as many other “skilled” jobs in that category “are prestigious and will look great on a resume, or [involve] doing something that’s directly applicable to their academic interests.”
Young said that a draft proposal had been sent to all student employers, though declined to reveal the current work-product.
Despite the interest in transforming pay categories to more accurately represent the amount of skill and effort required for included positions, the proposed changes to address the received concerns do not include any changes to the actual salary rates embedded in each pay category. According to Young, any change to student hourly salary in any pay category must be approved by the Board of Managers.
“There’s not a proposal to the Board of Managers to do that… [HR’s] philosophy is to make student pay categories congruent with one another, but not necessarily related to [student pay] in the outside world. This is not a time to change that, in this environmental climate,” Young said.
As a whole, the job reclassifications are based on a revised system of job criteria recently drafted by HR to more consistently demarcate what jobs belong in what category.
“Jobs will be graded based upon the complexity of the position, level of responsibility the position requires, skills and experience necessary, supervision and physical effort required,” states a document intended for departments needing guidelines to classify new positions. “Some consideration will be given for the degree of difficulty in filling a position. (i.e. morning shuttle driver).”
The lowest paygrade, Category I, now includes all positions deemed by HR to entail “mainly routine tasks,” and that require “minimal skills, experience, responsibility, or physical effort.” Such jobs include, “Dishwasher,” “Library Assistant,” “File Clerk,” “Office Assistant,” and “Gameroom Attendant.”
In contrast, Category II positions require “some technical skill” and responsibility, and may require “some previous experience and physical effort.” Positions that are now placed in this revised category include, “SBC Assistant Manager,” “Parlor Party Host,” “Web Site Coordinator/Tech Intern,” and “Tour Guide.”
Finally, Category III jobs require “expertise or a high level of technical skill, experience, or responsibility.” They may be supervisory positions, and may be considered roles that are “difficult to fill.” Example jobs include “Phonathon Caller,” “SAM,” “Career Peer Advisor,” “Grader,” and “Learning for Life Coordinator.”
“Very little is in stone at this point,” Young said. “Our intention is for all of those changes to be finalized in the next couple of weeks… we are in the process of going back and forth with employers and students about those jobs. In the next couple of weeks, we should have [the changes] finalized, so that students know about them when they are signing up for jobs for next Fall.”