To say the last week has been a headache for the College of William and Mary is an understatement. Thousands of students were forced to evacuate Tuesday, with only a few hours of notice, in preparation for Hurricane Florence. Students fled from Williamsburg late into Wednesday evening in a steady exodus to Richmond, Northern Virginia or whatever other safe place they call home. Students, fearing the disruption of their lives more than the incoming hurricane, struggled to stay afloat academically and manage the logistics of getting away from campus.
But a different sector of the College community faced a much more looming threat, a threat that many of us understandably forgot amidst our own worries: The College’s hourly staff learned they would not be compensated for the three cancelled days. Not only would these workers fear the incoming storm, but they would face an unexpected pay cut at the worst possible time. Many of these workers make minimum wage doing the difficult work required for the ongoing maintenance of a college campus. They have mortgages and bills, as well as kids to feed and bills to pay.
The lost income may be the difference between meeting their obligations and facing financial distress.
To push them to a potentially precarious situation because of a storm far beyond their control is irresponsible and immoral of a university more than capable of paying them.
A group of students are working to change this unfortunate situation. Bayley Murray ’20, has started a Change.Org petition to pressure the university to pay these workers for their lost time. Murray argues that these workers face limited budgets and cannot afford to lose this income. If the College didn’t refund students for three days of missed services, why should it deprive payment to its workers for doing the same? Over 100 students have signed so far, but Murray says many more will be needed to right this wrong.
While we think of our own issues and concerns, we should not forget that other members of our community face dire, real-world consequences as the result of university policy. It is within our power to change this situation. These workers are not strangers to the average student. In fact, I would venture to say students see them more often than they see many of their professors. These are the kitchen staffs of Sadler, Marketplace and the Caf, the people who ensure that we have the food we need to keep ourselves going. These are the janitors who keep our dorms, academic buildings and common spaces beautiful. These are the groundskeepers who make sure the flowers bloom beautifully and trees grow strong. If we truly believe that we are one Tribe, then let’s all demand the best for all our members.
Email Reid Champlin at firstname.lastname@example.org