Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of New Hampshire (UNH) has recently curtailed most of its operations. Almost every student has left Durham, but many in off-campus residencies still remain. Some of these students, such as myself, are student employees. I am a student employee that works for Housing Network Systems for the University of New Hampshire Department of Housing, and the dynamic of work for student employees has shifted dramatically.
Students who have left Durham all have had extreme difficulties returning to their on-campus jobs. Even those who remain in Durham but have jobs they are unable to report to face financial hardships. Students in Durham, especially those with federal work-study, are having extreme difficulties having their funds released. Per a March 16 report in USA Today, the Department of Education has ensured work-study payments, but “this guidance didn’t say how the colleges will pay students,” according to publisher and vice president of research for Savingforcollege.com Mark Kantrowitz, who is cited in the article.
UNH Financial Aid said in an email that students should discuss work options with their supervisors. Despite this, the work has essentially dried up for many. As departments were preparing for moving every student out, all help was needed. As I worked, I noticed numerous residential housekeepers sanitizing every single surface. After this, I was offered to assist UNH Facilities. The work included destroying trash and prepping the campus for further cleaning efforts. Though I turned this down, I was offered other tasks. My other task, which I accepted, was to assist our dormitory housekeepers in sanitizing their residential buildings. For the majority of my afternoon, I assisted housekeepers in sanitizing every surface in Babcock Hall, including hand railings, desks, chairs and doors. Here, nearly all students remaining on campus are housed, as UNH housekeepers attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and allergens in the building. I, unlike other students and many in the United States, am still fortunate to still have some available work during the pandemic. However, it was after working in Babcock that I realized the work will inevitably dry up, as, with an extremely small community remaining on campus, a robust staff will no longer be needed to maintain cleanliness. Given that the university is now experiencing a hiring freeze according to letter on the UNH website from President James W. Dean, Vice President for Administration Chris Clement, Provost Wayne Jones and Interim Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Catherine Provencher, I believe it is inevitable that remaining students working will be the first to go as certain cuts could potentially be made.
With the recent situation, I have found myself applying to off-campus jobs such as Trader Joes and CVS. Unfortunately, I have yet to receive a callback. My work-study position has also prevented non-essential employees from entering the building, preventing me from earning the remainder of my work-study award, creating a much more stressful financial burden. Though I am fortunate to receive some work on campus, the hours I will be receiving are comparable, potentially even less than what one could receive from unemployment from the state. The current situation does not bode well for those like me – those who are willing and able to work, yet are unable to find work.