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BuDS clamps down on no-homework rule

Monday, February 23, 2009

Managers for BuDS, the student employment arm of Dining Services, have introduced a new no-homework policy for many on-duty workers, a provision that was first presented to students in their contracts earlier this month.

The new policy, which formally prohibits all non-cashier workers, and cashiers in the Blue Room, from doing homework on the job, has resulted in some workers refusing to sign their annual contracts.

“We felt a formal warning sent a message that this is important,” said Cindy Swain ’09, a former BuDS general manager who introduced the formal policy with current BuDS general manager Alex Hartley ’10. “It makes sense that people are talking about it because it affects a lot of people.”

Workers have reportedly responded with a petition, though Swain said no one has presented the petition to her or Hartley yet. “People are going to have knee-jerk reactions,” she said. “We can’t do anything about it until they come to us.”

Though the no-homework policy previously existed as an informal rule for most workers, putting the policy in the contracts rather than just adding it to the new version of the handbook was “faster in terms of getting the word out,” Swain said.

“We basically wanted something physical in peoples’ hands,” Swain said. “We wanted people to know about it as quickly as possible – make sure they got the policy, understood it and understood

the repercussions.”

Many managers said they are happy with the new policy.

“We’re not paying people to come and do homework. We’re paying them to do work,” said Sophie O’Connell ’09, unit manager at the Blue Room.

The policy, she said, makes it easier for supervisors to monitor employees, now that it is “actually in writing.” But among her workers, O’Connell said, there has generally been a good response to the policy.

“No one’s directly come to me and complained about it,” she said. “For the workers who work behind the line, the homework policy didn’t change anything.”

Though Swain said the restriction on homework never needed to be formally written before this year, growing concerns from non-student professional managers about contamination from books and study materials, along with cases of decreasing employee performance, led the BuDS general managers to “streamline” the policy, she said.

The policy was partially implemented because BuDS managers are trying to avoid cutting student jobs, she said, especially given the current economic situation. “People need jobs,” she said. “We’re trying to not get pressure to cut

peoples’ jobs.”

She added that she hoped the new policy would improve student productivity and reduce any complaints from professional managers that might jeopardize

workers’ positions.

The new policy also stemmed from growing complaints from unit managers that their workers were “slacking off,” Hartley said. As a result, the new policy, which explicitly changes the policy for Blue Room cashiers and workers at The Gate – catering prep workers were already subject to new homework restrictions as of last fall ­- seeks to decrease clutter in the workspace and alleviate the strain on coworkers.

Hartley said workers frequently had to compensate for coworkers shirking their duties in order to complete assignments or study.

But most cashiers, who are still allowed to bring a book, paper and a writing utensil, have jobs that are “directly related to customer flow,” Swain said. Prohibiting these cashiers from doing a limited amount of homework would be a “slap in the face” since they sometimes get only a few customers an hour, she said.

“We were limiting how much clutter could be at the register,” Swain said. “I can’t think of a single register where there’s enough space.”

Though many workers say they are unaffected by the formalization of the policy, Hartley said she was aware that there are “a select few who are upset.” Most of these students work at the Gate, she said, where she was aware that many workers had books in the area used for food preparation.

But Laurie Schleimer ’12, who prepares food at the Gate and works as a utility cashier at the Ivy Room, said the policy tends not to affect many of the students who prepare food, adding that “there wouldn’t be any chance for me to do work, anyway.” She said the policy did not seem necessary.

“It seems like they’re being a bit ridiculous,” she said. “It’s not like they’re going to whip out a book when they’re making falafels.”

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