OPINION | Tulane has sheltered attitude towards working students

Rachel Kelly, Contributing Writer

The school year has officially begun, and Tulane University students are once again receiving emails and encouragement from administrators and professors about attending the job fair. Tulane also promotes resources like the Student Employment Team, which assists students during the hiring processes and throughout their employment. Despite encouraging students to work, Tulane does not maintain a culture or environment that is conducive to students having jobs during the school year.

Hand holding pencil covered in coffee
Student workers struggle to keep up with the unaccommodating demands of work and school. Gabe Darley

 Students from all economic backgrounds may choose to work while in college, but students from low-income family backgrounds are more likely to take on jobs in addition to school. Furthermore, among students who are employed, those from low-income families work more hours per week than their peers. College students from low-income families may not have a choice but to work during the school year. This is not the reality, however, for many Tulane students. 

As of 2017, 69% of Tulane students come from the top 20% of median family income. Since the majority of students at Tulane are not faced with an economic burden that requires them to have a job outside of school, they tend to spend their time outside of class doing homework, studying, participating in student organizations, socializing and relaxing. 

This kind of lifestyle may be considered stereotypical for college students but is not feasible for a significant portion of Tulane’s student body. This stereotype becomes problematic when members of the Tulane community do not expect students to work during the school year. Professors, administrators and social organizations do not account for the additional time commitments of employed students. Moreover, students who desire to seek employment, whether it is need-based or not, may struggle to balance the demands of participating in their college community with the demands of employment. 

There is a significant need to reform Tulane’s structure to account for the needs of working students. One possible solution is to give all employed students the chance to register for classes earlier than their unemployed peers, similarly to the privilege afforded to student athletes. Even without scheduling around work, many students find it difficult to get into the right classes because of how quickly they fill up. Students working a part-time job must allot time during the week to get ready, commute, and to work a shift. Instead of having a few classes every day, students may need to take many classes on certain days or take classes at difficult times of the day.

Accommodating employed students requires that professors adjust their mindset as well. Professors should reconsider their policies on late work and attendance. Of course, deadlines and accountability are still important, but the notion that students may have commitments other than school work often seems to be left out of the discussion entirely. Since there is not a university-wide policy for late work and attendance, it is up to the teacher’s discretion to establish these rules. 

Students may encounter a variety of late work policies, whether that means deducting a certain percentage every day work is late, or not accepting late work entirely. The latter happens more often than one would expect. These policies allow for very little leeway because many Tulane professors do not take into account students who have significant time commitments outside of class. To accommodate working students, professors must be willing to make exceptions and extend deadlines on a case-by-case basis.

Although offering early registration as well as exceptions to absences and late work may become resources that non-working students try to take unfair advantage of, if executed correctly, they could be effective and beneficial while creating mutual respect between students and professors. 

To implement these policies correctly, these privileges should first be reserved for those granted work study and then offered to the remainder of the working student body. This does not mean that students who come from higher income families cannot receive work-based accommodations. Rather, regulating these policies will guarantee that privileges like early time slot registrations prioritize those with financial burdens and ensure an equitable approach. 

Small changes in Tulane’s policies towards working students, such as early registration and modified late work guidelines, can help shift the overall sentiment about student workers in the Tulane community.  Work experience promotes financial literacy and responsibility and teaches students to build their resumes while adjusting to professional and student life. It is in Tulane’s best interest to take into account the needs of student workers and encourage students to explore the working world and succeed within it.

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