Campus jobs: passion versus pay
With hundreds of paid positions existing on campus, it’s not difficult to find work on the Hill, and students at the College don’t hesitate to apply. But those searching for their passion often have to overlook compensation and put in more time than the College will pay for. As students discover their working niche on campus with a job they are personally invested in, balancing between work and study time can become more of a struggle. But the more their work is motivated by personal interest, the less they care about the money.
The College employs more than 1,100 students on campus a year, according to the College website’s student employment page. “I always talk on my tours about jobs at Colby and I feel like more than two thirds of students have jobs here on campus,” admissions tour guide Caitlin Burchill ’12 said. “I know at some schools it’s not a cool thing to have jobs and it’s just people…who need it. Everybody [here] has a job and it’s not weird.”
Payment for campus jobs is divided into different levels based on a number of distinguishing factors including responsibilities involved, training or experience required and whether the job involves supervising or mentoring other students. Each level has four steps of 15 cent pay raises within it, which students generally achieve after working 125 hours. Only one step raise is permitted per year.
Examples of some level-one jobs include information desk attendant, mail runner, postal clerk and library circulation clerk. Allison Frank ’13 is a circulation clerk at Miller Library and worked at the library in her hometown before coming to the College. “At my town library at home…I was way over-paid,” Frank said. “It was awesome, but I was definitely getting paid more than I deserved, which kind of made it seem like I wasn’t getting paid a lot when I started last year at [Miller], but I think it’s fair…especially because I get to do my homework while I’m working.”
Level-one jobs are entry level and do not require any previous experience. However, generally only upperclassmen can apply to be circulation clerks and oftentimes they start at the library as shelvers, as Frank did. There are also certain shifts that are logged as level-two, namely Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, when fewer people are interested in working.
Generally, there is little correlation between a student’s level-one job and their career goals post-college, since the tasks involved tend to be more menial, such as “answering the telephone, photocopying, filing, data entry,” as listed on the Colby site. “[I am] there to check books out and in and…help people who can’t find anything in the library…It’s not that exciting,” Frank said. Frank’s job does not relate to her career plans, as she hopes to pursue a profession in film.
But like Frank, many students with level-one jobs are satisfied with their payment. “I’d say it’s about right. I don’t have any complaints,” postal clerk Matthieu Nadeau ’12 stated.
Jena Hershkowitz ’12 works as an information desk attendant in Pulver Pavilion, another level-one job, and is mostly satisfied with the level of compensation, though she wishes they had a similar arrangement to the library clerk, where attendants get paid more on weekend nights. “I do think that it’s certainly not the most challenging campus job,” she said. “You have some shifts where you do nothing, and some shifts where you’re busy the whole time…some nights when it’s just…crowded and you have to kind of make sure things are safe and that is a far more challenging position to be in.”
Also, like the weekend night shifts at the library, the weekend night shifts at the desk are equally unpopular. “I deserve to get more because I work on Saturday nights when no one wants to work,” Frank said. And Hershkowitz is of this same mind. “It should be higher,” she said.
Level-two jobs require more of a specific skill set and “some may require fluency in a foreign language or advanced writing skills,” according to the College’s website. Some examples of level-two jobs include research assistants (RAs), peer mentors and tutors. These jobs can be departmentally specific, so there is a greater chance that students’ work is relevant to their academic interests and possibly to their future career.
Michael Clark ’11 is an English major working in the Farnham Writers’ Center as a tutor. “I figured that getting a job at the Writers’ Center would…help me improve with my own writing skills,” he said. Clark is planning on becoming an English professor, “so tutoring is…similar because I have to help students see where there are potential problems in papers and then help them come up with solutions for it.”
Level-three jobs require the most training and responsibility, including positions such as Colby Volunteer Center (CVC) director and Colby Outdoor Orientation Training Trip (COOT2) coordinator. Also, “both CAs [Community Advisors] and SGA [Student Government Association] Officers are paid level-three pay rates,” Student Employment Coordinator Bill Pottle said.
Being a CA can almost become a full-time job. “It’s a constant job, it doesn’t end, it’s 24/7,” Averill CA Sarah Janes ‘12 said. “I think…it’s what you put into it, so I’m sure there’s a CA out there who probably works an hour a week, but then we have CAs who are working 30 hours.” In a position like this where there are no specific hours to log, the question of payment is not as well defined. This year returning CAs like Janes are receiving a salary amounting to $3,500, paid in biweekly installments in keeping with the hourly campus job pay periods. When broken down, CAs are paid for roughly 10 hours a week of work. But for CAs as passionate as Janes, it’s more about fostering community on campus than it is about the money. “The job to me…is making the dorm feel like a home,” she said.
COOT2 coordinator is also a unique position as far as payment in that it is paid level-three over the summer, but it is a volunteer position during the school year. During the summer it is a full-time job. “We’re here 40 hours a week and that’s all we’re doing,” said Tracey Tomlinson ’12, one of this past year’s two COOT2 coordinators. “During the year we have a committee to rely on, so there are 12 of us that are doing a lot of the work together.”
COOT2 coordinators are involved in assisting Associate Director of Campus Life and Director of Outdoor Programs Nicole Caruso with hiring the new COOT2 leaders. Over the summer they work full time organizing all of the trips, making reservations with parks, make sure they have all the gear needed and placing students on trips. “It’s a pretty big time commitment,” said Nate Eberly ’11, who was the other COOT2 coordinator this past year. “So, having us be volunteers allows us to have some other jobs on campus.”
Students are not allowed to work more than 12 paid hours a week “in order to allow sufficient time for academics and other Colby activities,” according to the website. During the school year, Tomlinson and Eberly, who both have multiple jobs, log hours for those jobs and are still able to be involved in COOT2 as volunteers without going over the 12 hour limit.
As Tomlinson said, “I’m actually glad that it isn’t [compensated during the year]. I’m really happy to do what I do for the program because I think it’s so great.” However, in other cases, students’ commitment levels become an issue when positions are unpaid.
Tomlinson and Eberly are both on the executive board in admissions, a position recently created when the tour-guide program transitioned from volunteer to paid this year. Last year there were 53 volunteer guides; now there are 20 paid guides, including the four executive board members, as well as several volunteer guides, who have other jobs on campus but still want to lead tours and would not be able to do so except as volunteers. With all volunteer guides, “an issue we had in admissions [was] students not necessarily…feeling as committed to [the job] because it was a volunteer position,” Eberly said. “Kind of like, ‘Well, if I miss a tour, that’s OK.’”
The Museum of Art also made a similar change with their tour program. Anne Sewall ’12 is a museum docent, guiding tours of local school kids through the museum and leading a supplementary activity for them, which the docent arranges with the teacher beforehand. Students have to take a course in order to become a docent and making it a paid position has created more competition among docents to pick up tour shifts. “Before I was just doing it off my own interests and I thought that [the tours] were kind of fun, but now there’s definitely a little more pressure on me to make sure that I actually deliver,” Sewall said. “Definitely now I don’t skip. I always call the teacher and have everything arranged. Before it was a lot more informal.” Still, “I definitely feel [getting paid] is more of a perk, than anything,” she said. “I’d still probably be doing it if it wasn’t paid.”
But while a museum docent generally leads two to three one-hour long museum tours per week, Hannah LaFleur ’11 and Jacob Marty ’11, the presidents of the Colby Outing Club (COC), say that they spend an average of six to seven hours a week running the club, being on duty during COC office hours and leading club meetings.
However, LaFleur and Marty, who both are looking to make outdoor education a part of their lives after college, have no interest in making the COC leadership positions paid. Rather than looking for compensation, LaFleur and Marty would prefer there be a program instated whereby students could receive credit for some of the certified skills they learn through the club, as the College currently does not have an outdoor education program. “I think a couple of years ago there was talk of trip leaders being paid, and it really was like, ‘that’s not what this is about,’” LaFleur recalled. “We do this because we want to and we hope that people will continue to be part of the club because it’s something they’re passionate about without feeling like they have to be paid to want to do it.”
Clubs and volunteer positions are maintained by students with ardent extracurricular interests, but the contrast between the responsibilities of these leaders and certain paid campus jobs is nevertheless apparent. While money can be an incentive, many students are driven by passion despite lack of compensation.