News, University News

University offers pay raise for Summer@Brown staff, addresses allegations of racism

Student RAs have demanded a pay raise to $3,500, protested firing of fellow staffer

By
Metro Editor
Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Following weeks of protest and negotiations, the University is taking steps to address Summer@Brown student employee concerns regarding compensation and alleged racial bias from the Office of Residential Life.

The University has significantly increased the stipends of Summer@Brown staff after meetings with student employees Monday and Tuesday, said Vice President for Communications Cass Cliatt. The meeting took place after Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services Eric Estes announced July 16 that the University will initiate a review of ResLife in coordination with the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity regarding alleged racial bias toward a student employee.

Higher compensation

The School of Professional Studies, which oversees the Summer@Brown program with ResLife, said it would allow stipends to increase to at least $3,500 for undergraduate staff members. Higher level staff with larger workloads, such as STEM and leadership directors, were offered stipend increases to $8,140, Cliatt said.

“There hasn’t been a review of compensation for some years,” Cliatt said, adding that it was an “oversight.”

“We know that we really could have done a better job keeping the compensation aligned with the evolving realities of the job over the years. The students are helping us get this right,” Cliatt wrote in an email to the Herald. “The students have really helped us to understand better the realities of each position.”.

Previously, undergraduate staff members received stipends that ranged from $1,500 to over $2,000.

At that meeting, Cliatt said, some summer staff members raised concerns over the varying stipend sizes between different positions in the program should there be an increased base stipend. Some residential directors, for example, raised the issue of a lack of variation in pay between staff and their immediate superiors, Cliatt said.

The Summer@Brown program — which allows pre-college students to take classes and live on campus for various intervals of the summer — has seen several protests staged by employees during the last two weeks over issues with the program’s administration.

Employees argued that pay from the University did not match the scale of their labor. Residential advisors previously demanded the University raise their pay to $3,500, a sum that aligns with the summer earnings expectation

The summer earnings expectation is an amount of income a student is expected to earn the summer preceding the academic year to help cover the expenses of that year. Previously, no wage bracket for undergraduate staff met that earnings expectation, numerous staff members told the Herald.

Alleged racial bias

The firing of former residential advisor Akpiroro Oshobe ’19 on July 11 has also been a point of contention for undergraduate staff who have raised allegations of racial bias over his termination.

Oshobe’s superior, upon hearing complaint of a marijuana smell in the hallway, searched Oshobe’s room and found what University officials described as “paraphernalia.” Only the room of Oshobe, who is black, was searched while the rooms of his two white co-RAs in the same hallway were not, Oshobe said.

In the wake of protest and outcry from undergraduate staff over the University’s alleged racial bias, the residential director that initiated the search of Oshobe’s room has left the University. The director described the two weeks following the event as “incredibly difficult and emotional” in a farewell email to her staff obtained by The Herald.   

“The Division of Campus Life and the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity are addressing a complex set of issues involving the disruption of an event by summer resident assistants and allegations of racial bias,” wrote Director of News and Editorial Development Brian Clark in an email to the Herald. “Both racial bias and the disruption of events are serious violations of Brown’s community norms and our code of conduct.”

Monday and Tuesday’s meetings between summer staff and the School of Professional Studies only broached the issue of compensation, Cliatt said.

On Tuesday afternoon, undergraduate staff met with the University again to negotiate compensation, Cliatt said.

The students still have other demands, including Oshobe’s reinstatement as a residential advisor, amnesty for all staff that have taken part in protests in recent weeks and a formal apology from the University for its handling of recent events, Oshobe said.

Still, a momentary victory has been won. “It’s a good day,” Oshobe said.

Update, July 26, 2017: The article has been updated to reflect a more recent meeting that the University had with student protesters over compensation since the article was written.

Correction: A previous version of this article said that Summer@Brown staff members raised concerns over the varying sizes of their current stipends. In fact, they raised concerns over the lack of varying sizes in stipends that would come with an increased base stipend.