On Nov. 7, the University announced that it will be raising its minimum wage from $12.50 to $15 an hour in 2022, a change that will not affect students for the moment but will affect the thousand or so employees working at this income level.
As student employees, of course we want more money. There’s no question about that. But what should be questioned about this increase is the fact that the minimum wage wasn’t $15 an hour already. It’s insane that full-time adult employees, who are supporting not only themselves but also their families, were expected to live on $12.50 an hour at an institution that prides itself on being a driving force behind employment in Rochester.
But student employees are in fact students first. Our massive tuition is ostensibly justified by the opportunity for a future increase in earnings as a result of a UR degree. Even if we are taking out loans, receiving financial aid, and/or working to support ourselves through college, we are doing so as a temporary step under the assumption that we will be paid more in the near future.
While many University employees are also pursuing some further education in addition to their staff roles, they are not in a four-year transition period between childhood and adulthood. Some of us have more to contend with than others during our period of growth, but for many University employees, there is no “after college” for their current stage in life, except perhaps retirement at some point much farther in the future.
As frustrating as it is that we’re not included in this wage bump, many student employees will still be getting a small pay increase come Jan. 1, when minimum wage increases to $13.20 in New York State. And besides, as University spokesperson Sara Miller told the Campus Times last Sunday, the process to raise student minimum wage is also currently underway. While we deserve a fair wage for our work (which will come eventually, as New York state law has mandated a gradual increase in the minimum wage each year until it hits $15), we don’t have to be first in line.
That said, when a student worker and a non-student worker are doing similar (if not the same) jobs, they are absolutely entitled to the same pay. There is no reason a cashier at Rocky’s should make less than a cashier at the Pit. We understand there are a myriad of reasons why the University enacted this increase immediately for only a certain portion of the population, such as the employee shortage in several departments across the University. But that doesn’t change the reality that when students are doing the same work, with similar backgrounds and experience, the fact that they are students is not a justification to value their labor less.
This pay raise isn’t a win; it’s righting a wrong. UR President Mangelsdorf stated in the announcement about the decision to move up the minimum wage increase, “This move to a $15 minimum wage now is the right thing to do.” If the University has the capability to be able to give the people who are the ones keeping this University running, people who are essential, what they deserve, then this isn’t a pat on the back for UR: It’s something the University should have been doing in the first place.
The Editorial Board is a weekly Opinions article representing the view of the Campus Times, co-written by Editor-in-Chief Hailie Higgins, Publisher Ethan Busch, Managing Editors Corey Miller-Williams and Olivia Alger, Opinions Editor Alyssa Koh, and Features Editor Melanie Earle.