‘Stop working immediately’: Pomona apologizes for email to work-study students that violated contract

A woman, Diana Rodriguez, stands behind a cash register wearing an apron.
Diana Rodriguez PO ’19 works at the Coop Fountain as a work-study student. (Justin Sleppy • The Student Life)

Violating a clause of the school’s work-study contract, nearly 60 Pomona College students on financial aid scholarships were informed via email over spring break that they had reached their work-study allotment limit for the school year.

The email informed the students that they “must stop working immediately” and “must not work beyond this maximum amount.”

The email seems to have violated Pomona’s work-study agreement, which specifies that students will be informed when they are within $300 of their $2,800 maximum earnings.

Students also said the email’s wording and the abrupt announcement caused them distress.

“The email was very impersonal and definitive,” Diana Rodriguez PO ’19 said via email. “It told me to stop working immediately without consideration of how that could negatively harm me both financially and mentally.”

Alezandro Ruvalcaba PO ’21 received the email at his home over spring break, “which was particularly unsettling for my mother and I,” he said via email.

At an ASPC meeting in late March, assistant financial aid director Jessica Dominguez said the mass email was a result of last year’s switch to Workday, a new online personnel management system, which made it difficult for the financial aid office to keep track of the limit notifications in conjunction with the payroll office data.

Pomona’s assistant controller Karen Lamb, who works in the Payroll office, declined to comment.

Last year, no students on work-study received notifications about nearing their work-study limits because of that transition, Dominguez said.

Going forward, the 58 affected students and their work supervisors can submit requests for additional funding, Director of Financial Aid Robin Thompson said. As of April 3, around 40 requests have been submitted, she said.

“For the most part, we are approving them,” she said at the ASPC meeting.

Thompson and the financial aid office subsequently sent individual apology letters to the students who received the initial email and informed them that they can request additional funding.

The notice was abrupt in tone, and it created anxiety at a time when the stresses of the academic year are at their peak,” Thompson wrote to the affected students. “We should have provided additional information and context with our first message.”

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