BY CORIE LYNN
One of the greatest effects of the coronavirus pandemic is the job loss that now runs rampant across the country. Fort Hays State University students, already affected by the university’s closure in March, are not exempt from this effect of the pandemic.
“FHSU employed approximately 1000 students this spring and a little more than 150 graduate assistants,” said Shannon Lindsey, Fort Hays’s Human Resource Director.
Lindsey explained that these students were employed through the Federal Work-Study Program, the Kansas Career Work-Study Program and the Departmental Job Program. While the Federal Work-Study and Departmental Job Programs provide on-campus jobs for students, the Kansas Career Work-Study Program sends students off-campus into career-related jobs.
Students across these programs have all had to leave their jobs behind with the closure of the university and the implementation of state stay-at-home orders. Lindsey reports that only 15% of these employees have continued to work remotely. Though this number is small, there are additional student employees who have been able to continue working.
“Graduate Assistants have been working with their academic advisors for guidance on completing their employment requirements this spring,” she said. “The University Farm has had some of its student workforce continue to work on-site during this time to care for livestock and carry out essential functions.”
While most student employees have not been able to continue their day-to-day functions, the university has ensured they receive payment through the end of the semester to counteract their cut in hours.
“FHSU has made it a priority to assure student employees who were not able to work remotely or are not able to work on campus continue to receive pay through the spring 2020 semester,” Lindsey said.
Doran Kolasa, an FHSU student employee, has found himself working cut hours at his hometown Dairy Queen in Nebraska due to the closure of campus.
“Throughout the semester I worked at the Instructional Resource Center, in the College of Education, on campus as a student worker. This was my main job on campus besides being a full-time student and being part of Christian Challenge,” he said.
Kolasa explained due to the nature of his on-campus job, he has not been able to continue working, though expects to return in the Fall Semester. However, because he can continue working at home, he says that he is not as affected as other students are, though he knows he is not the only student unable to complete on-campus employment.
Lindsey reports that one of the difficulties faced by student employees now out of work is the loss of the work environments they were once a part of.
“Student employees become an integral part of the office they work for. They are part of the highly functioning work teams,” she said. “When FHSU moved to remote work, student employees reported missing their work families and the support of their teammates.”
Like Kolasa, student Kayla Tribble has been able to continue working throughout the state closures. Her position as a paraeducator at the Hays Area Children’s Center has allowed her to see that even the student workers who are considered essential face difficulties.
“Since we have more cleaning duties at work now due to COVID-19, I am required to work longer hours and it’s hard work, so having the motivation to do school work after getting off work is hard,” she said.
In addition, she and her coworkers have had to balance work schedules with classes that require Zoom conference calls throughout the week. Tribble has seen that the difficulties essential employees face extend beyond scheduling conflicts and wishes that all would receive the recognition healthcare workers receive.
“We can’t forget the grocery store clerks and daycare workers that are still working as well,” Tribble said. “My mom is also still working. She is the kitchen manager at the grade school in Minneapolis, KS and she is working hard to feed the kids in the school district. My father is a railroader who is still working hard to make sure that the trains are still running smoothly. There are more essential workers than everyone sees or thinks.”
With many states already reopened, Kansas will follow suit through a phased reopening beginning May 4. As the plan gradually reopens nonessential businesses, it is the hope that Kansans, including FHSU students, can return to jobs or seek new ones over the coming weeks.
Until the state and campus reopen, students will have to wait to return to their former positions. In the meantime, Lindsey advises that student employees working remotely stay connected with their colleagues and peers as well as access university resources for assistance.
“Talk often. FHSU has been utilizing Zoom and Teams for connecting with employees who are working remotely. It is great to see faces,” she said.