Choosing which college you want to attend can be a time-consuming and nerve-wracking process. For me, LSU won out because I was offered financial aid and scholarships. With the benefit of TOPS and President’s Student Aid, I felt confident in my ability to graduate debt-free, which was important to me as a student looking to continue into grad school.
President's Student Aid is a work-study program assigned to incoming freshmen that allows students to work on campus to earn a set amount of their scholarship money.
I started working in the political science department as an office worker during my freshman year.
The job had nothing to do with my major — it still doesn't — but it has turned out to be one of the greatest opportunities I’ve been given in my college career. I've gotten to work with professors outside of my field, meet students I wouldn’t have met otherwise and learn more about how the bureaucracy of the University works.
Before the pandemic, there was nothing in the world that could’ve convinced me to give up my job. I loved walking into the office, catching up with my boss, seeing my favorite professors and being financially independent — but now everything has changed.
In order to keep all contact and interactions to a minimum, I spend most of my time at work alone in a conference room. On the rare occasion I do see anyone, it’s usually either my boss popping in to give me an assignment or a student asking to borrow my nonexistent stapler.
I appreciate all the department is doing to keep me safe — but not every student has the benefit of hiding away like I do. Student workers are often expected to work the front desks, putting them in frequent close contact with other students and faculty members; and according to the CDC, sustained exposure time "increases exposure risk,” meaning the longer students are put in compromising situations, the more likely it is they’ll be exposed to the virus.
Unfortunately, recipients of President’s Aid have to remain “full-time (12 hours) throughout the semester” according to the University’s scholarship retention requirements, so they aren’t given much of a choice.
While in its Roadmap to Fall the University does offer ways for some employees to work remotely, most student jobs (excluding research assistantships) don’t provide many work-from-home options.
Either you work whatever position you've been stuck with on campus for 12 hours each week or give up your scholarship for the semester and reapply when things eventually “get back to normal,” if that ever happens.
Obviously no solution is going to be perfect, but the University should be trying to take better care of its students this year. Consider giving President’s Aid recipients at least part of their scholarships this semester without forcing them to work on campus. It is not ethical to ask them to risk their lives and the lives of others on campus just so they can earn money that should be allotted to them already.
Marie Plunkett is a 21-year-old classical studies senior from New Orleans.