Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Friday, April 20, 2018

Budget will constrain Dav to only federal work study students

Several former-federal work study employees at the Davenport Coffee Lounge were let go in September, after the School of International Service administration restricted the Dav staff to only federal work study students.

SIS Dean James Goldgeier was notified in August that the Dav hired “part-time workers.” Part-time workers were students originally hired as federal work study employees and then hired back despite losing their aid money, he said. The workers were paid traditional salaries rather than via federal aid.

“[Federal work study employees] enable the Dav to operate as it does, which is to provide products at prices that are affordable to the University community,” Goldgeier said. “It can’t really operate otherwise.”

There have been part-time workers at the Dav for at least the past two academic years, according to Beatrice Greenberg, a senior in the School of Public Affairs, and Brenda Gonzalez, a senior in SIS. Both girls were hired at the Dav their freshman years in 2011, lost their federal work study allotments sophomore year and lost their jobs at the Dav at the beginning of this academic year.

The exact number of students who lost their part-time jobs at the Dav is not known by the former staff members. Rebecca Regan, the manager of the Dav, could not comment on personnel information, she said by email.

Interim Assistant Dean for Budget and Personnel Mana Zarinejad discovered the budget discrepancy while she was running through the numbers on all of SIS’s budgets during the three months she held the position.

Goldgeier determined that part-time workers were unsustainable for the Dav, because the Dav would have to charge higher prices to accommodate for paying wages to part-time workers, Goldgeier said.

“There was a deviation from this long standing policy last year, and it needed to be corrected,” Goldgeier said.

The part-time workers had been allowed to remain on staff, despite losing their financial aid allotment at some point during their time at AU. Students must renew their federal work study each year, but changes to a student’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as FAFSA, can cause the student to also lose their federal work study allotment.

“Any sort of change in your FAFSA can totally change your [financial aid] package,” Greenberg said.

The part-time workers were notified that they would no longer be allowed to work at the Dav two weeks before the beginning of the semester through an email from Regan.

The workers tried to speak with Goldgeier and Zarinejad to put a face to the numbers that the school wanted to cut out of the Dav’s budget and potentially negotiate a semester or academic year-long extension.

“People doing the budget, they don’t know us personally, so they’re not understanding our personal attachments to the Dav, and there’s no face to a name,” Greenberg said. “So when they’re looking at the budget, and they’re looking at a sheet of paper, and they’re looking at all of our paychecks…. they just see a number as opposed to the person who works there.”

The SIS administration maintained their decision that part-time workers could only stay through September to mentor the new staff unless they regained their federal work study status.

“If they regain their federal work study status they are welcome to rejoin,” Goldgeier said.

Greenberg and Gonzalez, as well as other former part-time workers, did not accept the deal because they could not swallow the September terms. Students felt like they were only being kept to train replacements, Greenberg said.

Gonzalez, who will receive a double major in international relations and economics, asked Zarinejad if she and another Dav employee facing termination could see the entire SIS budget, but they were told that would be nearly impossible, Gonzalez said.

“For me, it just made me realize, my value in regards to being an employee in SIS was more-or-less how much I cost,” Gonzalez said. “It’s not what I can contribute, but how much did [I] cost.”

Regan now reports directly to Goldgeier instead of the budget office, Goldgeier said. This direct line of communication will allow problems to be resolved quicker and the manager to consult Goldgeier on how the Dav’s revenues and expenses line up in the future, he said.

Prior to this fall, neither Greenberg or Gonzalez had ever attended AU without working at the Dav, and being removed from its community made it clear that it was more than just a place to get a paycheck.

“The thing about the Dav that makes it special is that each of its employees shape its business structure,” Gonzalez said.

shogan@theeagleonline.com


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