Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
University of Maryland students are given the chance to engage with a variety of needlessly-complicated systems throughout their time here, but perhaps none is more strenuous and confusing than the on-campus part-time employment process.
This university’s human resources department categorizes this type of employment as “UG Student” and pays on an hourly basis. Students bravely scoured for these largely minimum wage positions on the student employment portal — which has an interface comparable to eBay in 2002.
This university wields a labor force of people who, on top of taking at least nine credits, must mesh their work schedules with school commitments. And, for many, they must find time to park.
This university doesn’t do much to alleviate that last concern. Even the cheapest parking passes cost $181, equivalent to around 14 hours of minimum wage take-home pay. And if students need to stay overnight, that price skyrockets to $451.
There are many ways this university should provide support to these employees. But at the bare minimum, student employees should receive discounted parking passes and greater parking flexibility.
This university should create a special parking pass designation available to student employees for the semester they’re working. The pass would cost less than the regular student passes, ensuring less of each employee’s salary goes directly towards making sure they can actually get to work.
This would immediately subdue some major inconveniences. Say your semesterly pass, like mine, allows you to park in Lot 1 from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m. on weekdays. This could be convenient if you worked at Ludwig Field or Tawes Hall, but what if you, like many RecWell employees, had to get to Eppley Recreation Center for your shift? After parking in your assigned lot, you would then have to trek nearly another mile to get there.
Imagine, if you will, a world where this university showed proper care for its student employees and issued you a conditional pass for Lot SS — which is adjacent to Eppley — for the duration of your employment.
It would show they care for those who venture to give back to their campus in a meaningful way. Offsetting the ever-increasing tuition costs at this university could also prove wise in the long run from a public relations standpoint.
This university can and should provide more than a minimum level of support for their student employees. This can manifest with a few benefits that would come with the student employee parking pass.
Many students begin their work shifts in the late afternoon to avoid interference with their class schedules. While this university opens up some lots after 4 p.m., many lots close to on-campus employment opportunities are still restricted. They could designate these lots as free for student employee passholders after a certain time.
Even further, this university could provide assistance to student employees regarding lunch breaks. If they gave student employees an additional stipend of dining dollars on top of their hourly salaries, it could give them more convenient dining options while stimulating the campus economy.
The opportunities attached to a student employee pass should go beyond parking and dining. With student employees uniquely susceptible to academic burnout, giving them access to specialized tutors exclusive to student employees could help students manage their packed schedules.
Student employees often work to help with tuition or living expenses — the university should be taking this into account. Support for working students should also include internship and job opportunities from alumni employees and inter-department social events could contribute to the university’s push to prioritize employee wellness.
If the university truly cares about the wellness of all its student workers, it should start easing the lives of those who make the most effort to give back. Between work and school, student employees have enough on their plate. Parking approval should not be yet another convoluted system that they’re forced to engage with.
Don’t stop with specialized parking passes. Give student employees the benefits they deserve.
Joey Barke is a junior government and politics and journalism major. He can be reached at email@example.com