On Sunday, April 11, Resolution 17.37 was passed by the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) to slowly raise the minimum wage for student workers with the goal of reaching a $15 minimum wage by September 2019. The vote passed with 16 for, 0 against, and 8 abstaining. Although passed by the WSA, the resolution still has to be signed into effect by the Wesleyan administration. The resolution’s co-principals were Josh Nodiff ’19, John Henry Vansant ’18, and Noah Kahan ’19.
The current minimum wage at Wesleyan is $9.60, based on the current Connecticut minimum wage. However, the WSA aims to increase the minimum wage at Wesleyan in order to acknowledge the reality of low-income students who have to work jobs.
“Respecting that for many low-income students, work-study jobs are not about spending money or résumé-building, but about lessening crushing student loan debt, paying medical expenses, and even supporting struggling parents and family members,” the resolution reads. “Therefore, the Wesleyan Student Assembly recommends that the administration…increase the minimum wage for students on Term-Time employment (WesWork) and federal work study reaching a minimum of 15 [dollars] over the course of the next [three] years to allow for the University to carefully plan for the cost increase.”
The resolution also states that other universities, including Columbia University and New York University achieved a $15 per hour wage increase just last month. Barnard College, with an undergraduate population smaller than the University, is also very close to reaching this 15 dollar minimum wage at their university. With the increase in the minimum wage, Wesleyan could potentially be one of the first private institutions to take this measure.
“It may well be that a path to a $15 minimum wage is a path we should embark upon,” said Wesleyan President Michael Roth. “That would mean figuring out if in the end the students would have more or less money because we don’t want to just charge more tuition to raise the minimum wage. But it may be that students who will have work-study allotments will actually use them, because currently a lot of these students don’t use all of their allotments. Wesleyan spends more on work-study than we are allotted by the government, and we want to make sure we’re paying students fairly.”
The objective of increasing the minimum wage to $15 will take place over the course of three years, with the minimum wage increasing by increments until it reaches $15, adjusted for inflation, in September 2019. The resolution states that with this increase, a student would have to work three hours fewer per week to earn the full work-study award.
The resolution would potentially help students balance their academic lives with their working lives, reducing the pressure that they experience in doing their work-study jobs.
Aviv Rau ’19, a member of Wesleyan’s United Student Labor Action Coalition (USLAC), mentioned how the organization will be paying special attention to this particular effort.
“We’re making it a priority to hold certain administrators accountable for things that they’ve said about work-study students in the past and to make sure that there’s a lot of transparency and a lot of understanding on both ends, of students and administrators,” Rau said. “We’re trying to balance both the really individualistic framework and also its greater implications.”
According to Rau, USLAC is in the process of reaching out to different identity groups that have a compelling interest in the resolution. USLAC will also be utilizing the strategic network of the WSA in an attempt to garner more support from administrators at Wesleyan.
The resolution recommends increasing the minimum wage to $13 starting in September 2017, to $14 in September 2018, and then ultimately to $15 by September 2019, with a $0.10 per hour raise for each year of experience.
The resolution is set to be discussed by Wesleyan administration.