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February 5, 2015

Workday to bring major changes to student pay systems

Students will be unable to simultaneously work as a teaching assistant and a lab assistant beginning in autumn 2015. This policy is a University-wide change stemming from recent changes in how payments are disbursed to students.

In January the University switched to the payroll system WorkDay from the UChicagoTime system. Under the new system, student pay is calculated on an hourly basis. This contrasts with the past method of payment, under which T.A.s were often paid a lump sum for their work. The switch to an hourly payment system means that students are now exceeding the maximum number of hours that they can work, and thus cannot hold both jobs at the same time.

According to Laurens Mets, master of the Biological Sciences Collegiate Division, there has not been a change in University policy regarding the number of hours that students can work. Instead, the change stems from a new form of enforcement of the already existing policy.

According to University spokesperson Jeremy Manier, “[The University] now [has] a more accurate picture of the overall magnitude of students’ work effort, and that information has compelled us to review how student work hours are established and monitored to ensure they are in compliance with the limit on overall effort.”

The change has ramifications for students across the University, but it is particularly problematic for students in the sciences, and especially in the biological sciences.

“The biological sciences might see the biggest effects [from the payroll change], because we hire about 100 undergraduates and a fair number of graduate students,” Mets said.

Sarah Watanaskul, a third-year biology student, described the complications resulting from the new policy, saying, “There is an overlap between the students who are active in research and those who want to teach.”

Manier described the rationale for change as prioritizing classwork.

“The major priorities for graduate students and undergraduates are to make progress in their studies, [and] prepare for success after graduation,” he said. “The University supports these priorities in many ways, including by placing limits on the amount of paid University work that students can perform while enrolled in a full-time degree program.”

Watanaskul expressed concern about the effects of the proposal. “While I understand the motivation behind the policy change, I think this new rule will make it difficult and inconvenient for professors to find T.A.s,” she said.

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