COVID-19 Impact: Student Employees

On Campus Employment? Not Anymore

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, student employees who remained in the Prescott area faced challenges getting back to work. As the pandemic intensified in the United States, the decision was made to completely close Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s residential campuses. This decision created more complications for student employees.

The initial changes began over Spring Break. Angel Rodriguez (AE ’20), an employee in Career Services described his experience. “I was told my hours will be unaffected, simply that I will have the delayed start [due to the extended Spring Break] as well… I missed out on working the first week we were supposed to be back.” Rodriguez continued, “I worked one day and then I was told all budgets were cut, so I lost all my hours then.”

Some students continued working on campus while it remained open. Michael Blackwell (AE ’20) in Admissions was one of the student employees whose hours were not cut – they were needed to keep the campus running smoothly and used for wellness checks for visitors. . “The admissions office was cleaned and sanitized multiple times throughout the day,” he says.

Blackwell continued, “keeping your hands clean and everything clean were very important precautions. Hand sanitizer and Lysol wipes were readily available for all the students and staff. Throughout my shifts, I would wipe down desks, keyboards, monitors and even my own laptop.”

Stacey Davenport, Blackwell’s supervisor in Admissions, provided her perspective on the evolving situation. “Since campus tours were canceled, we only had phone shifts available. For the first week, we kept a full staffing… The opportunity to help with health checks became available, and students were offered those shifts to help fill out their hours.”

Blackwell was one student who participated in the wellness checks, which were being conducted while ERAU was keeping the residence halls and other facilities open. “Students were encouraged to wear gloves, masks, and keep all the equipment clean and contact Safety if needed.” Davenport also noted that the Wellness Center provided masks for those conducting wellness checks.

Davenport explained “Admissions did our best to provide hours for our student employees during this difficult time… Many of our student employees either did not come back from spring break, or left for home shortly after returning. I felt glad that those students were able to be home with family during this time. For those left here in the trenches with us, they stepped up and made a real difference to the campus.”

Not all student employees feel so appreciated. Oliver Davis (AE ’20) who has multiple jobs through the school said “My weekly hours have gone down from 25 to about 4… My responsibilities for ‘Horizons’ and grading have not changed, but I have no more responsibilities as a CAM or library student assistant for the rest of this semester.”

Davis went on to explain how he feels leadership has fallen short. “There has been no regard for students who rely on student employment to pay for essentials such as rent and tuition. There has been no mention of any way that the university wants to help student employees,” he says.

Davis also brought up Arizona Proposition 206, which passed in 2016. According to USA Today’s ‘AZCentral,’ the proposition requires accrual of one hour of paid sick leave per 30 hours worked, and its language specifically calls out applicability to public health emergencies. “No ERAU students are being offered this sick time pay, which is illegal and nothing has been done about it,” says Davis.

Rodriguez offered a contrasting view. “We shouldn’t be quick to be angry or point fingers at the university itself because ultimately it wasn’t them who just decided to cut jobs, it came from a global issue out of their hands… The decision-makers are humans too and make mistakes, so we should applaud them for their efforts.” The long-term effects of and university response to the student employees’ situation remains to be seen.