Western staff feeling pressures of increasing enrollment

Mai Hoang

In the ongoing war between growing enrollment and decreasing funding, one often-ignored group is waging it’s own battle to do more with less.

The 1,000 staff members who keep Western’s campus cleaned, fed and operating, are feeling the pains of increased enrollment just like everyone else.

Larry Woods, a building services attendant who works in Schneider Hall, has watched his eight-hour work days become filled with more trash to pick up in kitchens and more shoe prints to clean from dorm stairwells.

Woods’ dilemma is not a rarity on the Hill. While class size balloons and enrollment skyrockets, staff have had to adjust. President Gary Ransdell estimated the enrollment increase is creating 20 percent more work for staff.

Western’s enrollment increased by nearly 1,000 students this year, but most departments hired few or no new staff to counter the jump, said Elizabeth Paris, chair of Western’s staff council and a business coordinator for Information Technology.

She said department staffs have been hit hard by Western’s increasing enrollment.

“The staff that are already on board are taking care of more faculty members and more students,” she said. “(But) staff has not been given any additional positions because of the enrollment increase. Everyone’s doing all they can do.”

More student traffic

BSA Brenda Wilbert was annoyed as she stared into the floor of an elevator at Milton Hall last Tuesday.

There was a piece bubble gum smashed into the tiles.

She had planned on spending a couple of hours cleaning and waxing the the elevator floor. After seeing the gum, she knew she would have to do more than that. It took her more than thirty minutes to remove the wad.

Due to increased student traffic in restrooms and lobbies, Facilities Management Director Doug Ault said building services attendants and their assistants are spending more time waxing floors and cleaning carpets. Bathrooms and kitchens also need more frequent restocking of paper towels and toilet paper.

Trash is becoming a problem, too, according to Marshall Tooley, a building services employee.

Though dorm rules require students to take trash to a nearby dumpster, many dump the trash into kitchen garbage cans, he said.

“It’s very frustrating,” Tooley said. “When you could be doing something else, you have to take the trash out. It’s slowing you down from the job you’re doing.”

Student services feel the crunch

When students call Financial Aid, their ears are often met with busy signals.

Financial Aid director Marilyn Clark said full- and part-time workers in the office have received more e-mails, phone calls and visits since school started because of growing enrollment.

“At the front desk, the phone is never not ringing,” she said. “We have someone full-time answering the telephone. The minute you hang up, it rings.”

More students also mean more financial aid forms for staff members to process. Although the financial aid office closes at 4:30 p.m., Clark said workers are staying until 6:30 or 7 p.m. daily to process the large amounts of paperwork.

“Sometimes its necessary to stay longer, just to get uninterrupted time,” she said. “…I would say everyone is looking forward to things coming down a little bit.”

Other student services are feeling the crunch of more students, although it may not be completely noticeable, said Howard Bailey, dean of Student Life.

“Your workload is altered,” he said. “It’s not something you can put on a report, but the workload pressures are clearly there. It’s something you can’t calculate, but every office that is student oriented can see and feel the number of additional students they interact with.”

Charita Moyers, head cashier at the Garrett Center Food Court, can attest to that.

It’s most noticeable during lunch hour, she said.

“Everyone comes in at one time,” Moyers said. “It’s just a big rush.”

Admissions

Before students applied for financial aid or swiped their Big Red Card at a food court cash register, another Western department began feeling the pressures of the increased enrollment.

Admissions director Dean Kahler and his staff had to help late applicants enroll at Western, schedule classes and find housing. At the same time, the admissions office had to make plans for freshmen recruiting next year.

Admissions staff saw the extra workload coming early in 2002 when the university learned there was a 15 percent increase in its applicant pool.

Admissions counselors worked extra hours to make more phone calls, send more e-mails and write more letters, he said.

“We have a philosophy that we build relationships with our students,” he said. “If you have a lot more relationships, obviously you’re going to be a lot busier.”

Staff needed

With no help in sight and the prospect of an even larger enrollment next year, some departments are beginning to question if their staffs can handle a larger workload than they’re already faced with.

Ault said building services employees have remained positive despite the increased workload, but there is a need for more workers, notably because the university will open a handful of new buildings next year.

“You can only ask so much to do more for less,” he said. “If all of a sudden they have to take care of a new building without additional staff that’s going to get pretty tough.”

However, Ransdell said the ability to hire more staff will hinge on whether the university will have to fork over money to the state for state budget cuts.

Western has already set aside $2 million for possible state cuts. he said.

“If we avoid a budget cut, we can use that money to address staff and faculty pressures,” Ransdell said.

Otherwise, the university will not be able to hire any additional staff until the next fiscal year, he said.

Kahler said he probably won’t be able to hire more staff. Instead he must figure out how to accommodate future needs with current staff numbers.

“Certainly more funding will be beneficial, but I recognize the Commonwealth has a limited budget,” he said. “. As the budget gets tighter we just have to work a lot more smarter.”

Reach Mai Hoang at [email protected]