Pomona College’s allotment system, which was implemented this semester and caps non-financial aid students’ earning potential at $1,000, is an unmitigated disaster.
Pomona College has chosen to dissociate work from compensation. Under the new allotment caps, work is not worth a set pay rate as it was in the past, which indicates that the college does not value the actual work that students do.
In the past, a student would work the necessary hours to get a job done, and the importance of that job was reflected in the hourly wage value the college had assigned to it. Now, however, a student who is not on financial aid can only work the hours that fall within their allotment, and whether or not the job is done, they are not allowed to work anymore.
This strongly indicates that the college doesn’t value the work performed because they are not concerned with the final product. Instead, they are concerned with the allotment cap. This in turn indicates that the college is inventing jobs for students to do; the jobs available aren’t significant or even necessary. The college is only providing them so that students can “earn” some of their keep.The ugly truth is, the college is paying people for their identity. Pomona isn’t paying them for the work they do, because this college has prioritized an allotment cap over a finished product or a job well done. Students are instead paid based on their identity as “rich” or “poor.”
This brings up a larger issue the school must address: now that you have chosen to pay people for their identity instead of their work, why link that pay with work at all? Why not simply provide students who are on financial aid with an additional couple thousand dollars per person up front? (This would save the college even more money, in fact, because the staff that must painstakingly enter green timesheet and Kronos hours worked for each student would become unnecessary.)
The point is, you either value work or you don’t. Either a finished product or job is worth the time and effort it takes to complete it, or it is not. It is not suddenly worth the time and effort if a student on aid wants to do it and suddenly not worth it if a student without aid wants to do it. Allotments distort the work/pay relationship. If Pomona has decided it does not want to provide the funds necessary to pay all students for their work, then the college needs to stop connecting campus jobs with pay and start providing more aid to students who need it.The allotment system also forces students to give up interests and passions. Pomona forgets that students work for different reasons: some for money, some because they love their jobs, and some for both. The school also forgets that people who are involved on campus tend to be involved in more than one way—these students often have more than one job because they are actively involved in campus life.
It is wrong for Pomona College to tell students they can hold only one job. In reality, this measure, meant to ensure that everyone who needs to earn work-study can do so, forces hardworking and dynamic students without financial aid to become less involved and to give up their passions. For example, students should not have to choose between their job as a mentor and a Writing Fellow. These jobs involve a level of dedication that goes above and beyond any pay rate, and it damages campus life when the people with that drive are forced to limit their contributions to the vibrancy of this college.
Based on the college’s abysmal attempt to determine the “legitimacy” of campus jobs over the past semester, it is obvious that the administration lacks the awareness necessary to decide which jobs should be exempt from this stifling “one job” rule.
With that in mind, they shouldn’t be deciding at all. There is no need for job limits and exemptions. The college has stated that they simply want to ensure that everyone who “needs” a job can get one. And since they have completely dissociated work from pay, it should be simple to create as many jobs as there are financial aid students who want to work. If that means the mail room is open until 1 a.m. every night and the Coop Fountain from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m., so be it.
Furthermore, the jobs that require interest and personal investment—like working at the Writing Center, being a mentor, researching with a favorite professor, or photographing for the Communications office, for example—tend to require the best possible staff. The best possible applicants will not always be on financial aid.
However, a great deal of skill and ability should always take precedence over less. Students should not be hired for these jobs because they need money; they should be hired because they have the talent and skill to do them well. We should never be willing to sacrifice the quality of our work to meet an invented pay cut-off scheme.
Pomona’s allotment policy should not exist. The college should either pay students for their work, or give them the money they need up front. Otherwise, the college runs into a whole host of sticky issues: Do we value work? Do we only value certain kinds of work? Do we value skill and talent? Do we value passion? Do we value a desire to work? Do we value a drive to participate in campus life? How do we weigh the vibrancy of campus life against providing work opportunities? These are not questions the college administration or the board of trustees can answer unanimously, coherently, or equitably.