When Southern Miss announced in February that on-campus classes would be held remotely through the end of the semester due to COVID-19 concerns, it wasn’t that surprising. What was less obvious was what would happen to Southern Miss’ on-campus student workers.
Senior entrepreneurship major Jacob Smith works as a faculty assistant at Southern Miss. Though he did not lose his job, he has been forced to make major adjustments.
“I have to work from home and have meetings with my boss via Zoom,” Smith said.
Though he knows the changes were necessary, Smith said working from home makes it harder to be productive.
“I think the university made the right choice in closing when they did,” Smith said. “Working from home is a bit more difficult because of the lack of structure. Creating and managing my own schedule has definitely been a challenge. I am absolutely less productive now that we are all online. Most people seem to agree.”
Some student workers, however, were not able to keep their jobs due to campus closures. D’Asia Coach, a senior criminal justice major, said she was given about a one week notice after classes switched online that she would no longer be able to work.
Coach said, though Southern Miss handled the COVID-19 situation quickly and in accordance with safety regulations, there were some things that should have been handled better, like her job notice. She was also one of the many students affected by the Southern Miss dorms closing.
“They could have gave us more notice when it came to moving out of the dorms because it was a struggle to try and work around someone’s schedule since I don’t have my own car,” Coach said.
Coach also said that Southern Miss is not currently offering her any monetary support, which is a major concern among a lot of students, especially those living in their own apartments or taking care of dependent family members. She hopes that this will soon change, though.
“Besides schoolwork, I am hoping I’m eligible for a refund from my housing and meal plan,” Coach said.
Since this interview took place, Southern Miss announced eligible students will receive refunds for housing, meal plans and parking.
Harlee Allen, a senior psychology major, is a former student worker for Southern Miss. Allen said her experience as a POD worker was positive. Though she was not one of the workers affected by COVID-19 layoffs, as she had already stopped working as a student worker before campus shut down, Allen said some compensation should be provided for those students who were affected.
“I know that sometimes businesses are unable to provide assistance in monetary forms,” Allen said. “I feel some compensation could be provided either through dining services or other services to the students who were unexpectedly laid off if monetary forms are not an option.”
Allen also said student workers are important Southern Miss employees and should be treated as such.
“Students make up a decent portion of USM’s employees, so I’d like to see a little more respect for those of us who have worked and do continue to work because we contribute significantly to the functioning of the school,” Allen said.