by Nico Moreta
[originally published November 2021]
Most on-campus jobs require you to clock in and clock out digitally now, with the exception of a few jobs that still pay in stipends (OSCA paid positions, RAs, PALS, etc). Whether you work in the stacks, WOBC, or any student org, you have to reckon with TimeClock Plus. This is no biggy considering TimeClock Plus does make life easier in many ways. I mean, paper timekeeping comes with its own set of bureaucratic failings, most jobs require you to be on a laptop anyways, and the mobile app means you can do it from your pocket. However, TCP has problems, and these problems indicate a lack of information and transparency around how students are getting paid.
Listen, this isn’t meant to shit on a stupid website. It’s just that I, and many other students, have a problem with yet another wall of anonymity separating them and compensation for their work. Something that contributes to an overall feeling that this school doesn’t care enough about getting us paid, or at least making this process simpler.
I mean, whose job is it to make sure you get paid? Well, sadly, I think there is only a long-winded answer for this question.
To me, this is a cop out. Ultimately, that should be a baseline assumption: every student cares about getting paid for their labor. We should worry about doing the work, and we should worry about how we are making sure we are adequately paid. It should be simple. If the website for clocking in comes with problems, if it makes students prone to: forget to clock out, forget to clock in altogether, exceed their hours, clock a 15-hour shift to make up for not clocking in earlier in the week, and plenty more, then it’s not completely the students problem is it? It’s the students coping with a payment system that can be rather confusing to deal with, and to be specific, the system extends beyond TCP and into the functions of this school. TCP is just another set of jargon setting us apart from our pay.
The heads of our student org?
In many ways, yes. It would be ideal if these people could be a funnel for learning the functions TCP and all things student employment. If they could explain the weird 15-minute round-up confusion. Explain the need for your last four SSN digits and T#. Explain the amount of hours and exact pay each person should be getting. Explain the need for your I-9 paperwork, and other supplemental materials. Explain how to find the payroll schedule. Explain the importance of correcting your hours by Monday at 10am of the end of your pay period. Explain who your supervisor even is, and what that means. However! This is a lot! And, what system is there in place to make org leaders messengers and liaisons for getting their staff paid? These are jobs that go through position changes every semester, and you are expected to learn everything on your own? How? Sometimes, you might not even be clear that you have a role in the dissemination of this information.
Your TCP supervisor? Tina Zwegat?
The answer, again, I think is nuanced. Tina Zwegat works with student organization payroll, and is tasked with approving A LOT of student workers’ hours. She can correct your hours if you clock in late, clock you out if you forget to, and all around adjust your hours. She’s the surrogate between TCP and Payroll. I must stress the importance that, if you have a problem with how you clocked your hours, she can correct these adjustments! You must email her if you have a problem. Don’t let your labor go unpaid! I know this isn’t easy. It’s hard to see beyond the anonymity of TCP, but there are people behind this. There are people you should be familiar with. With all this said, I do think our TCP should play a better role in familiarizing herself with her payees. Does she want to enter a million clocking mistakes manually? No. Therefore, she should want us to be informed enough to know that this can be avoided. There should be open communication beyond emails. There should be references to materials. There should be some kind of training administered to org leaders, office hours, mandatory check-ins, or ideally an openly distributed, ever-changing master doc/FAQ of the full list of idiosyncrasies that go into this college’s weird system of getting us paid. Ok, maybe that shouldn’t be entirely her job because that is a lot on one person. But again, why is it all on one person? Why can’t students help approve hours? Why can’t we cut out the complications and just use TCP to record that we worked?
Human Resources? Student Employment and Payroll?
HR is the home of the bureaucracy, and bureaucracy rots the soul. Your paperwork lives here. You send your I-9’s here. You make sure your passport and SSN are on file here. But, how do they fit into everything? Student Employment notifies you of missing documents, and Tina should be tacked onto these emails. Hopefully, she won’t let you get complacent in these missing documents, but sometimes there is little more than a dejected notice that you won’t get paid because of it. Then, for whatever reason, you need to have your paperwork turned in within 3-5 days of receiving employment, or run the risk of not getting paid for two weeks. Why is this the case? I have no clue, but it does not cater to international students or anyone struggling with getting their specific identifications (that may be oceans away) to school. Regardless, there are so many moving parts and levels to this system, it’s frustrating. Why can’t HR notice these multitudes of complications, and inform the students of how things work! Why do all these problems seem to flatten when you Log On to TCP only to realize you can’t get paid, or there’s a problem with getting paid for whatever reason, and you just want to punch a hole in your computer.
So, I think the answer is a little bit of all, but mostly people at the top. Personally, I could be better about making sure I’m paid. Students obviously could be better, altogether, but it's not necessarily desirable when you realize this dumb website is doing a lot of heavily lifting for a student pay system that could be simplified.
One last thing. Why doesn’t our hourly pay feel guaranteed?
OCOPE and many other institutions aligned with TCP use the site just to record their hours worked. They are guaranteed their hours every week as long as they record it (something that can be done at any time of the day) unless they’re on vacation, call in sick, etc. Why can’t we do the same? Why are the students responsible to clock in and out on this website, in order to get paid altogether? Does that mean we aren’t guaranteed the hours we supposedly are? Does that mean the school expects us to be complacent in not clocking in? Flat rates? Department of Labor standards? ACA standards? Why can’t we work at flat rates? It seems like the entire shift from stipends to hourly pay (a result of the Affordable Care Act) took place in order to ensure students aren’t working unpaid overtime. But, placing the weight of clocking in and out on students does not solve the problem of students working unpaid overtime. There are varying hours of student work. Simply telling us we have only eight hours of work a week doesn’t mean that a WOBC staffer who subbed for x many radio shows on top of their normal allotment is not working overtime. Even further, this TCP system, in a rather odd way, does not guarantee the salary we are promised when we can easily not be paid for an entire work period because of certain functional issues that keep arising.
Overall, the switch to TCP means clocking in and out is now assumed to be the students primary burden. We should know better? I would consider this fair if there was any system in place to teach students about how student pay functions at this school beyond the general, “we should know better.” That could easily start with more top down communication. Someone telling new hires to beware that so many students habitually won’t get paid for the first two weeks (or longer) of the semester because of paperwork minutiae. Someone telling incoming students to bring XYZ identification to campus if we expect to work. And, sure, this information exists on this campus, but why couldn’t it be consolidated into a concise learning material. Information from everything as simple as who your supervisor actually is to how pay periods operate. It’s findable, but is it accessible? I honestly did not understand how anything worked a week ago, and I’m still unclear about certain legal standards and the role of HR. I just wish this wasn’t all so confusing if you are a student who wants to get paid, or wants to get others paid, or simply wants to understand who to turn to for what problem.
While I think the whole system of student pay could be simplified, as for now, everyone would be better off if someone (HR; Joseph Vitale and Jose Garcia) openly communicated continuing strategies for navigating this convoluted system of student pay and forewarn us of the pitfalls a student may experience: even inconveniences as dreary and minute asTimeClock Plus.
ALL SIDEBAR NOT PART OF THE ARTICLE
Are the clocking issues inevitable? If all students were made aware of the ins-and-outs of how they are paid, then maybe they will decrease, but I don’t think that is easy.
TCP adds to the tedious problems. I’ve heard from many about a certain passport predicament where a student tries to clock in, but their position doesn’t show up. Going to settle this issue means going to the Office of Student Employment in the Service Building, where they might tell you that you need your passport in order to get paid. This can be met with some of the following responses: “My passport’s at home.” “You can do expedited shipping.” “Ok.” Well, shouldn’t we be told ahead of time that we need our passports? Instead of having to get your parents (or whatever situation that might be) to ship it over ($$$) and have it received, god knows however many days after you started doing unpaid labor.
Additionally, the mobile app isn’t always a breeze. It's been clocking out students on its own, which is awful and frustrating. It also logs you out, which means you have to go through the complicated ass problem of setting up that motherfucker again (anyone who’s done it knows…).
Also, there is this faceless component to the entire system that’s nauseating: do students even know who to talk to when they are having a problem clocking in? Do students even know that they have a designated supervisor (a real person on this campus) who monitors their clocking habits? Why aren’t we greeted with an email by that advisor once we are hired? It seems like all there is to do is get wrapped up in passive aggressive email chains with them about bureaucratic nonsense. Money is sensitive! You want to know you’re taken care of, but digital timekeeping and relentless emailing keeps you further from that personhood. I’d reckon it makes everyone complacent on all ends. It definitely does not sound great being a TCP supervisor who habitually receives 30 angry emails over the weekend demanding you to fix XYZ TCP problems. But, students are angry because they want to get paid. The school opted for a less personable system once they turned everything digital. That is the truth. And it doesn’t help that one supervisor is tasked with correcting the TCP clocking issues of literally hundreds of students.
Ok, maybe I’m fixating on the confusion, but it’s all in an effort to understand: