Coronavirus has rocked the world. Everyday we are updated constantly on statistics, addresses from officials and our employers. But people shouldn’t forget that the rising numbers of cases and deaths in our country and other countries each represent a real person who is sick. Real people are dying. I, like many of you, have been checking my UCR email account frequently in the hope of finding any COVID-19 update that might put my mind at ease. After over a week of updates nationally and from campus leadership, I believe that UCR’s response to this crisis has been inadequate — the university has failed to consider vulnerable members of our community and failed to take care of student workers.
All of my income is earned through my work for the university. I work through a university partnership with a local high school, which is now closed, and I also work as a student staff member for a campus department. While salaried workers, like teachers, are rightly still receiving their wage, as an hourly worker, I no longer have the income from my partnership, which pays a higher wage than my other job. The department I work for is allowing workers to work remotely, but I fear in the absence of campus events and staff to communicate with we may run out of things to work on and have hours further reduced. My wife, who I share income and my bank account with, works off campus and has had her hours reduced to one or two days a week when she’s lucky.
While I am still able to work some remote hours for my campus employment, I know this is not the case for many student workers, most of whom provide in-person services. Our earnings have dropped with absolutely no safety net whatsoever provided by the university. Considering monthly expenses and the high cost of rent in the area, many student workers are in a very precarious and uncertain situation. UCR has much higher rates of hunger than the UC system average, and the campus administration’s lack of support for their student workers shows a complete disregard for individuals already struggling and threatens many more.
To make matters worse, UCR, in line with the University of California, Office of the President (UCOP) policy, has decided not to adjust fees and tuition whatsoever for the spring quarter. There are numerous fees assessed quarterly that pay for exclusively in-person services that students will not be able to access due to campus closure such as the Student Recreation Center and printing services. We are not receiving what we have paid for. Those fees are supposedly assessed to pay for the operation of these services, so where is this money going and how is it being used? Why not refund it or use it to supplement lost income for workers? The campus needs to give students answers, because right now, this feels like a scam. As financial situations continue to be in turmoil, students, particularly low-income students and student workers, need more support.