With Lehigh’s shift to a hybrid model for the fall semester, the work-study program had to adapt, with some positions becoming fully or partially remote.
Offices on-campus who employ work-study students and the student workers themselves were already navigating changing responsibilities and work conditions. But new questions remained after a recent spike in COVID-19 cases on Lehigh’s campus forced the school to scale back campus activities, close all libraries and gyms and move all undergraduate classes fully online for the next two weeks.
The decision, however, raised concerns from students who depend on their in-person work-study.
Jennifer Mertz, Lehigh’s director of financial aid, said even students unable to complete their work-study remotely for the next two weeks would still be paid.
“Students who are working remotely can and should continue to work remotely, but those students that cannot get to their on-campus job can continue to get paid,” Mertz said.
In the event the school is unable to open back up at the end of the two-week period, Mertz said the Financial Aid Office will re-evaluate the situation.
Jason Shao, ‘22, the Game Room and Great Room supervisor at Lamberton Hall, said his work-study has been different this semester. Normally, students fill Lamberton for large events, but this year he said the staff has focused more on sanitizing surfaces and maintaining social distancing, opting for remote options when possible.
“We hold as much as we can remotely,” Shao said. “So we’ll do Zoom meetings for our staff meetings where 30 of us should not be meeting — we’ll do that online. But in-person shifts just involve usually one or two people at most in a room.”
Other work-study positions have gone entirely remote.
Kyle Batchelor, ‘22, who works for Lehigh’s Library and Technology Services, said, although his position is online, he and the rest of the staff have been just as busy.
Batchelor said, before the pandemic, LTS staff would go to a professor’s office to help them with technological issues, often involving a faulty computer or printer. This semester, he said they spend much more of their time helping faculty work with Zoom, and that he finds it rewarding to help professors get acclimated with online learning.
“Online, it really feels like I’m shaping the way that everybody’s kind of learning because, without the help of LTS, the professors would not have access to all the different programs and tools to help make online learning as successful,” Batchelor said.
Some work-study positions, like those at Taylor Gym, are not able to shift online. Taylor Gym closed Oct. 3 as a result of Lehigh’s scaling back of campus activities.
Margaux Petruska, ‘22, a desk attendant manager at the gym, worries about her co-workers if the school were to shift fully remote for the rest of the semester.
“As managers, you’re guaranteed your work-study, and you can work it remote, but no other position can,” she said. “I know a lot of our staff who chose the (fully) remote option (for the semester) are not able to work here.”
Petruska also raised concerns about first-year students finding work-study opportunities.
“I definitely think it’s a little difficult for first-years to try to find a work study position, or it could be more difficult this year than previous years, for sure, because a lot of things just aren’t happening and a lot of facilities aren’t open.” she said.
Mertz said she is aware of remote work-study positions that are still available.
“At this point, our office isn’t aware of an issue where a student wants to work but isn’t able to find a job,” she said.