The Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) has drafted a proposal to increase the University’s minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2021. The increase would affect all workers on campus, including students and employees from contracted companies like Bon Appétit.
The proposal reflects a recent University survey of work-study students, which found that of the students who did not fulfill their entire work-study award, 87 percent said that it was difficult for them to balance academic demands with their work schedule.
“Students should be focusing on their studies, not working strenuous hours to fill this allotment or stressing about how their families might have to make up the difference if they aren’t able to [do it],” the proposal reads.
The proposal is being circulated with a petition, which currently has over 600 signatures. The WSA created the petition after the University declined a similar proposition earlier this year. The administration argued that a change in wages would do little to reduce the number of hours needed to fulfill work-study allotments and explained that they would not take action to raise the minimum wage unless there were changes to federal financial aid or state wage laws.
“To me, that’s sort of irrelevant and besides the point,” George Fuss ’21, a leading voice in the movement, said of the administration’s response. “Our workers and our work-study students should be compensated equally as their counterparts are at other NESCAC schools. It’s unfair that they should work for less just because they live in another state.”
As Fuss explained, the wage standards at other NESCAC schools play a significant role in the justification for the WSA’s proposal.
“Eight of the eleven NESCAC schools will have a higher minimum wage than Wesleyan by 2021 because of state increases in minimum wage laws,” Fuss said. “We think that Wesleyan should take the initiative and raise its own minimum wage because we are that kind of progressive school.”
Under the proposal, which was drafted in part by Vice President of Finance Nathan Peters, the University’s minimum wage would increase by 30 cents each year until reaching $11 on July 1, 2020. The drafters of the proposal believe that the benefits of increasing the minimum wage would justify the expected three-year cost of $441,000.
“The return on investment would be a more competitive university in terms of recruiting high-achieving low-income students and a wage that allows students to fulfill their work study allotments without overworking or losing focus on coursework,” the proposal concludes. “We expect to see a significant increase in the amount of students who completely fulfill their work study allotment if this request is approved.”