Keycard slot being tested on Humboldt State University's Creekview dorms, which have a total of 96 keycard slots in Creekview alone. | Photo by Nick Kemper

Student Assistants laid off after department merge

Four Housing and Residence Life maintenance student assistants have been laid off.

4 Housing and Residence Life maintenance student assistants have been laid off

Editor’s Note: It should be noted the Lumberjack’s News editor was a laid off student assistant.

Computer Science major, Zach Pole, was laid off before this fall semester. The rest of his coworkers lost their jobs as well. Pole said the money he earned paid for everything, such as his housing, phone bills, school necessities and the braces he once had.

Pole worked part time for Housing as a maintenance student assistant for two years. Pole soon found out the work given to him wasn’t what he was supposed to be doing.

Director of Housing and Residence Life, Stephen St. Onge said over the past five years, the number of Housing and Residence Life maintenance student assistants has decreased. There used to be 10 student assistants, then six, then four, now none.

“The student assistant’s job was to assist the tradesperson,” St. Onge said. “Students can carry tools, and help support the person doing the work, but they can’t be doing the work themselves.”

However student assistants did more than assisting the tradesman.

“As silly as it sounds, we weren’t supposed to change a light bulb, or touch any tools,” Pole said. “Randy Davis was going to strictly enforce that. He saw we wouldn’t be doing anything, so he laid us off.”

Randy Davis is the current Facilities Management Manager.

Over summer, Facilities and Housing merged into one department. The Associate Director of Housing Facilities, Steve Mackenzie, was previously in charge of the student assistants.

After Mackenzie was fired, Davis took over as the Facilities Management Manager. Along with Davis’ new position came the responsibility of student assistants.

“Technically yes, student assistants were doing jobs they weren’t supposed to be doing,” Davis said. “They were making screens and changing light bulbs where there’s potential arc flash, and electrical safety issues.”

English major, Kaitlin Stanfield worked as student assistant for maintenance for less than a year. She completed work orders, fixed vacuums, looked at heating units and de-lofted beds.

“We weren’t supposed to use any tools like drills,” Stanfield said. “But we could make screens, all we had to do was saw frames.”

Stanfield said she wasn’t given a straight answer to why she was let go. Initially she was told there wasn’t enough money in the budget.

“I have also heard we weren’t needed,” Stanfield said. “I also heard that Randy Davis, the guy in charge, didn’t want to deal with us.”

Davis said he didn’t fire student assistants because he didn’t want to manage them. He fired them because Housing was not complying with the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Stephen St. Onge said student assistants weren’t laid off due to a budget issue, but rather a health and safety issue.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement is a contract between employees who are a part of a union and the employers. There are 13 different types of union, each with their own unit under the agreement.

The type of work student assistants were doing was unit six work. That work is meant for tradesmen, which includes electricians, plumbers or carpenters.

Tradesmen came to me saying, ‘now you’re in charge’ what’s going to happen moving forward?” Davis said. “We have student assistants doing our work, and they shouldn’t be doing our work.”

Under the Housing’s and Residence Life job descriptions, it states student assistants working for maintenance can use drills, saws, hand tools and ladders. The job description contradicts the reasoning behind management’s decision to fire the student assistants.

Despite management saying student assistants weren’t supposed to be doing unit six work their jobs didn’t end immediately. Before their last day, management told them to change batteries for each key carded door.

“We have these students through August, we will use them to do our planned work,” Davis said.

The doors included every entrance door and room door in the residence halls. Each battery took ten minutes.

“A few thousand battery change outs needed to happen. They used minimal tools. They probably shouldn’t have been doing that,” St. Onge said. “Personally I wasn’t concerned about safety for using a screwdriver.”

St. Onge said the union has a powerful voice, but insists that firing the student assistants wasn’t a union decision but a management decision.

“It’s not the student assistants fault, they did nothing wrong,” St. Onge said. “Facilities had no student assistants working in area six, in Housing we had four. We shouldn’t have had any.”

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