Student employees are not beneath you

Gabe Darley, Contributing Writer

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Gabe Darley is a student worker at the Reily Student Recreation Center. 

Being a student employee is a common experience for many on Tulane’s campus.

Working at the front desk of the Reily Student Recreation Center consists of very official duties such as tapping Splash Cards to a scanner and renting out the occasional tennis racquet. It isn’t an especially glamorous job in itself, but it’s a good spot. Coworkers are friendly, the rolling chairs behind the desk are fun, and giving the purposefully ambiguous parting note, “Sorry, I have to go to the gym,” to classmates and friends right before a shift never gets old.

Ashley Chen | Production Manager

Sometimes, however, Tulane students make it easy to forget that.

Reily has a strict ID policy. For students, this means having a Splash Card to tap in. The interaction usually starts pleasantly enough with a “Hey, I forgot my card. Is there anything you can do for me?” Sometimes, this will include a smile or an arm on the counter, so as to say, “Don’t be afraid, I’m your friend.” Not to worry, dear gym patron, because we have a grace rule. As long as you have any other form of photo ID, we can make an exception.

And here’s where the situation typically takes a turn for the worse.

The smile fades. Fingers curl. Brows furrow. 

What’s interesting about the student-to-student comradery between customer and employee on campus is that it’s around so long as it isn’t inconvenient. At a point like this, when the tank-top-wearing, gum-chewing gym bro who so desperately needs to lift weights doesn’t have any other form of ID, a student employee is no longer a peer. They are no longer his friend, as he might have led them to believe at the beginning of the conversation.

Receiving a stern talking-to or being yelled or even sworn at isn’t uncommon at all. And it certainly isn’t relegated to jobs at the recreation center alone. Grumbled insults at PJ’s are frequent when a coffee was served hot instead of iced. Even more horrific comments are made in cases of delayed Panera orders at the LBC. There is a distinct way in which customers talk to employees when things don’t go as planned, and Tulanians show the worst of it.

Yes, student employees get paid to withstand it. It isn’t some horrible, inescapable terror that they live through every time they clock in.

And yet, we should be asking for more from our community. We should remind those who don’t work campus jobs that their working peers do not become inferior when they sit behind a desk. It is difficult to think of a situation on the entirety of this campus in which verbal abuse would ever be productive or warranted, certainly not in the case of receiving the wrong croissant from a barista who is on hour seven of her shift. 

Student workers are our peers. And even those workers who aren’t, like the Sodexo workers whom so many Tulane students complain about and dismiss, don’t get paid to sacrifice their humanity. Try to keep that in mind next time that you forget to bring your Splash Card with you to Reily.