Thursday, May 28

Lydiette De Jesus: UC’s restriction on work hours is unmindful of student needs

Students can work up to 19.5 hours at UCLA Dining Services establishments, including Bruin Café. The UC-wide policy is meant as a safeguard to help students focus on academics, in conjunction with other financial aid packages. However, until recently the policy has been subject to lax enforcement. (Laura Uzes/Daily Bruin)

This summer, the stoves weren’t the only hot items in the dining halls. The department was under some serious heat, and now student dining workers are somehow still dealing with the fire.

UCLA Dining Services faced criticism after a push for higher student wages revealed that some student employees worked more than 30 hours each week. This violated a UC-wide policy that student workers cannot work more than 19.5 hours per week, so the dining department immediately reimplemented vigilance to restrict student hours.

While a19.5-hour regimen has existed for a long time, its effect has not been felt because of administration’s lack of supervision. That said, the policy is unmindful of students’ needs – it must be restructured in order to allow flexibility for students to work more than 19.5 hours per week if extra hours are available.

Before the strict supervision and mandated work limit, many students already followed the weekly 19.5-hour restriction. It was common for students in need of money to pick up extra shifts to cover coworkers who could not make them.

But while hours and paychecks have been cut, bills have not. When I first heard about this dreadful policy change, I found that my preplanned budget for senior year was no longer relevant because of my sudden income change. And I’m not the only student dining worker to have experienced this.

According to UCLA Dining Services, student food service workers earning $10.75 an hour get paid no more than $419.25 biweekly – and that’s not even taking taxes into account.

As any college student can testify, $400 is not enough for even basic necessities like rent, let alone additional student expenses such as groceries, school supplies, social lives, medical bills, car insurance, gas and any of the other limitless expenses students find themselves on the hook to pay.

Student dining hall employees are not working for pleasure or to pass time, but because they need money. The UC system cannot take away the opportunity for them to make a gainful wage.

What’s more, the UC needs to recognize that a $400 paycheck is not enough for college students to be financially secure, and that limiting the number of hours we can work is hurting us. UCLA students are adults – we are hardworking, resilient and responsible. Let us be the judges of how much we can handle. Let us work enough so that we don’t have to stress about paying our bills while we’re studying for our midterm next week. Let us learn how to manage time by responsibly choosing the number of hours we can dedicate to studying versus the number of hours we need to work.

In an official statement, UCLA Financial Aid and Scholarships said the 19.5-hour policy is a UC guideline and not a federal regulation. The statement argued that the policy exists to “ensure (students) can focus on their education.” It added that “financial aid packages provide a carefully calculated balance of grants, work-study, and expected family contributions, to ensure students have no more than a manageable amount of loans and work-hours that will not infringe on their studies.”

So the UC system is trying to mask this limit as some benevolent favor to students. It’s not. It’s just patronizing. And as many students can confirm, financial packages are often less than ideal, so the need for flexible working hours is apparent.

It may seem like working fewer hours will give students more time to focus on their studies, but that’s assuming students’ financial needs magically disappear. Students aren’t suddenly becoming more focused on school because of the 19.5-hour regimen, but are instead finding themselves quitting their UCLA jobs and finding alternatives – possibly further from campus – where they are allowed to work more hours and are therefore able to pay their bills.

Limiting the hours students can work under the pretense of caring about their academic success is not only invalid, but also ironic. The UC wants to exercise the power to micromanage our work schedules, but it’s obvious it hasn’t taken the time to evaluate the harm the policy would cause.

As students, it is our job to be vigilant of any and all university policies, especially those that directly affect us. After all, if we don’t speak up for ourselves, no one else will. Therefore, to the UC system, I say, let us work. Give us our hours back. Our bills are pending.

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