HRL committee examining student staff compensation

A+PFT+desk+attendant+swipes+a+students+WKU+ID+on+Sunday%2C+Sept.+9%2C+2018.

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A PFT desk attendant swipes a student’s WKU ID on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2018.

Michael Crimmins, Administration reporter

WKU’s Housing & Residence Life has formed a committee to look into student staffing and compensation rates.

HRL released a statement on Sept. 7, which was then featured on the Instagram page of @wku.takeback, addressing concerns regarding student pay.

“The professional staff in the Department of Housing & Residence Life has been made aware of recent feedback regarding HRL student staff positions and compensation,” the statement reads. “It has become evident over the past year that a reconsideration of all current student staffing structures is necessary.”

According to the statement, a committee composed of “varying levels of HRL professional staff” convened at the beginning of the semester in order to address these issues.

This email was shared by Blair Jensen, interim director of Residence Life.

Jace Lux, university spokesman, said he did not have the names of individuals on the committee. Per Blair Jensen, interim director of residence life, it consists of five members.

“At this point, the analysis consists of individuals on the committee identifying what they perceive to be the organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats,” Lux said via email. “The responses will be open-ended in their structure. They will be compiled and shared with stakeholders, and will be used to develop and guide next steps in the process.”

Per HRL’s statement, the ultimate goal of the committee is to present a compensation proposal for the 2023-24 academic year.

According to Katie Corbin, assistant director of marketing and communications at HRL, desk assistants and their concerns will also be a part of the review process.

“We sent an additional email to our desk assistants since their position is also part of our review; we wanted to make sure they were also receiving communication about the process,” Corbin said via email.

Roughly two weeks ago, an anonymous user named “RA Undercover” created a petition on Change.org calling for WKU’s HRL to raise the “disgustingly low” wages residence assistants are paid for working at front desks.

“I was excited to work with residents and create new friends under a student-first work environment,” RA Undercover wrote. “This is my second semester as an RA, it is only the second week of classes, and I already have days where I will be getting no more than two hours of sleep while attending classes due to my responsibilities. I can confidently say that every semester we stray further and further away from a ‘student first’ organization.”

The petition asked for 200 signatures and, at the time of writing, had aggregated 188.

Jensen said the petition had gone unnoticed by HRL. While the timing of the statement might seem convenient, Jensen said HRL had already formed the committee and was meeting as early as the summer.

“I was unaware of the change.org petition […] In my mind those two things are in no way related,” Jenson said. “I think it is coincidental, the timing of all of these things, because as we mentioned in our email communication […] This was already an issue we were aware of and [we’ve] already begun that work on putting together a better compensation package for our student staff members.”

Jensen said the committee wants to bring “long term, sustainable” change to the student staffing structure. HRL currently employs roughly 250 students.

“What I have in terms of a timeline is we are trying to proactively plan for what will be our recruitment season for the [2023-24] academic year,” Jensen said. “That is our intended focus right now.”

Jensen said addressing these issues with staffing is her number one priority.

“I’ve been working on this all morning,” Jensen said. “I don’t want people to think we’re just sitting back and are like ‘we’ll get to it when we get to it.’ No, this is our number one priority.”

Jensen said she wants student feedback in this process because they “are on the same side.”

“I think it’s really great for us to be having the conversation because we really value the hard work students put forth in providing a premiere living, learning experience for our students,” Jensen said. “We are aware of the challenges that [students] face and we are trying to make positive change –we are excited that our student staff members are exercising their voices.” 

Administration reporter Michael Crimmins can be reached at [email protected]