On Thursday, March 28, Assistant Director of the Student Activities Office (SAO) Miiko Taylor announced through a campus-wide email that New Student Week (NSW) leaders will be paid during the Fall 2019 NSW. The NSW leader role was previously a volunteer position while other Peer Leaders working during NSW have been paid.
Leaders will be paid $10.75 per hour for 35 hours during training week and for 40 hours during NSW. As was the norm in the previous years, housing and food will be provided during those two weeks.
Several reasons underlie the change, which SAO has been “playing around with for several years,” according to SAO Director Lee Clark. Serious discussions began in Fall 2018.
“Right after this past NSW, we began having conversations about feasibility,” said Taylor. “When you’re volunteering, there are different implications from when you’re actually working for the college.”
“Offices involved included SAO, the Dean of Students Office, the Vice President and Treasurer’s Office and the Tuesday Group,” added Clark. “Funding for these positions will come from the College’s overall student employment budget.”
Increasing accessibility was a main impetus behind the change. “Carleton is a place that has a wide variety of students” said Taylor, “and we want that reflected in the NSW Leaders because they’re some of the first faces that incoming students meet.”
“There are students in the past who have wanted to be NSW leaders, but because it’s two weeks of not getting paid, they may not have been able to financially do it. We saw this as a potential way to close that gap and make it a little bit more equitable.”
The office also wanted to honor the increasing workload of NSW leaders.
“Over time, NSW leaders have been asked to do a little more every year as the needs of NSW have changed, so we wanted to recognize that as well,” said Taylor.
JP Beaty ’19 served as one of 2018 NSW’s Program Assistants (PA), working over the summer to plan activities and during NSW to train leaders. He compared his experience as a NSW leader two years ago to what he saw as a PA.
“The role has expanded what can reasonably be a volunteer experience,” said Beaty.
“There has been more programming happening at more times of the day. For example, evening programming has become an expectation. During NSW, it’s roughly 14 or 15 hours per day for a lot of the leaders.”
“NSW leaders have a big job of helping orient new students to life on campus,” added Emily Boxrud, another 2018 NSW PA. “It includes a great deal of procedures, policies and campus resources. It only makes sense that NSW leaders should get compensated for their time commitment in assisting new students during such a busy and hectic time in their lives.”
Beyond recognizing hard work, incentivizing students—even those for whom a volunteer position could be financially viable—has been a challenge in the past years.
“I’ve noticed a slow decline in the number of applicants over the past 10 years and it’s been increasingly difficult to fill the 80+ positions on a volunteer basis,” said Clark.
“It’s hard to find an incentive to dedicate so much time for training and working before and during NSW,” added Boxrud. “Over the years, there has been a rather large turnover rate when it comes to NSW leaders. There was such a huge time commitment that didn’t offer compensation other than the self-gratification of helping our new Carls through their transition to college life. While it is amazing that we can get so many volunteers to work NSW without compensation, it’s also an incredibly difficult and taxing job at times that could possibly utilize an extra incentive of receiving pay.”
In 2018, low volunteer turnout served as a particular challenge to NSW.
“For a lot of people who had been NSW leaders before and were asked why they wouldn’t do it again, it had a lot do do with ‘It’s just a lot of work that we don’t get paid for,” said Beaty. “We ended up having enough people who were able to do it, but [if they dropped], there was no one to replace them with.”
There is optimism that paying leaders will increase these applications numbers and draw upon a more diverse applicant pool.
“The applicant pool for next year is currently in progress and looking strong,” said Clark. “We hope to see at least 100 applicants this year for the 80 available positions.”
“I’m hoping we can attract more students who haven’t typically thought about it in the past, but it’s a little bit too early to tell what that number will be,” concluded Taylor.