“For a lot of us this is how we’re paying for everything that we do and it’s not okay for us to be working for free,” Emily Lowry, junior biology major and second-year Resident Assistant (RA) said.
Lowry is one of 14 RAs who were not receiving their paychecks from their start-date on Aug. 5 until Sept. 21, when the Office of Human Resources issued checks after receiving a petition from the residential staff in The Commons Residence Hall. According to Lowry, she first received an incorrect check of $60 at the beginning of the year and then stopped getting checks completely; some of her colleagues hadn’t been paid at all.
“When we were alerted to this this week, in the Office of Human Resources, we asked payroll to immediately cut checks to get to the individuals with obviously deepest apologies,” said Renee Venezia, executive director of human resources.
Venezia said she became aware of the problem after The Commons staff sent their petition to Vice President of Human Resources Robert Pietrykowski on Sept. 20 requesting that they receive their pay and some form of compensation for the delay.
“We’re asking for additional funds because we’re essentially working for free for months.” -Alex Lopez.
“We’re asking for additional funds because we’re essentially working for free for months,” said Alex Lopez, senior marketing management major and RA whose pay was impacted.
Lopez said extra compensation can help the RAs who’ve had trouble paying things like credit card bills while waiting for the issue to be resolved, but the Office of Human Resources has not yet confirmed whether this is a possibility.
“I didn’t have any money in my account and I don’t have any family that I could ask for money because my family doesn’t have it. I’ve been living off DB and I haven’t gotten gas in months,” said Lowry. “I know a lot of other RAs are having larger problems like not being able to pay their credit card or car payment.”
“I didn’t have any money in my account and I don’t have any family that I could ask for money because my family doesn’t have it. I’ve been living off DB and I haven’t gotten gas in months.” -Emily Lowry
Lopez and Lowry were told by their supervisors who were in communication with the Office of Student Employment that they weren’t approved in the system. They both said they didn’t understand how their approval didn’t go through, since they were both RAs last year. Lopez also said that he was frustrated that the Office of Student Employment didn’t offer more insight into what the problem was, even after he reached out to them personally.
“One thing is not paying us, [another] thing is not explaining why we’re not getting paid,” he said. “When a student is reaching out to you and you’re an official employee of the university and you don’t respond, that’s when things become frustrating.”
According to Venezia, the Office of Student Employment might not have known what the problem was. After launching an investigation into what went wrong, Venezia found that a switch in supervisors in the Office of Residential Life & Housing prevented some RAs from getting fully-approved in the employment registry system, because the new supervisor didn’t have access to the records to know they were incomplete. Now that the Office of Human Resources knows about this problem, Venezia said that they are working with OIIT to change the system to alert them when employees have not been cleared through the system.
“In the spirit of one NSU, obviously, we don’t like it when things don’t go right. We understand that there is human error but certainly, we just want to go forward, fix it and not have it happen ever again,” said Venezia.
Venezia said that she was unaware of any other offices with this problem, but that if a student was encountering this problem they should speak with their supervisor or the Office of Student Employment. Despite this, Lopez said that he’s encountered similar problems like this in the past and both Lopez and Lowry said other students were currently facing similar problems.
“In the spirit of one NSU, obviously, we don’t like it when things don’t go right. We understand that there is human error but certainly, we just want to go forward, fix it and not have it happen ever again.” – Renee Venezia.
The Office of Student Employment did not respond to a request for comment.
“I think it’s an issue that’s been there but no one has brought it to the forefront,” said Lopez, who as president of Undergraduate Student Government Association plans to bring up the issue to Pan SGA. “I believe that this is an issue that there needs to [have] a formal rule written for so that this does not happen again.”
Lopez and Lowry both stated that they do not blame the Office of Residential Life and Housing for the problem. According to Lopez, their supervisors, such as Aarika Camp have been transparent throughout the whole process.
“This is a great job. I love my job and I love what I do,” said Lowry. “[But,] nobody wants to work for free. This is a job and we should be paid for it.”