Students’ Association to discuss CA Contract


Wren Murphy, Reporter

The Students’ Association Senate will vote to request a change in Community Assistants’ job description during their weekly meeting Monday, Jan. 25.

Currently, CA contracts contain a clause requiring them to perform “other duties assigned” in addition to their primary tasks. The resolution, 20-17-R, would request the university list specific duties in the clause instead. 

According to the text of the resolution, CAs “have been assigned an unreasonable amount of extra duties under the ‘and other duties assigned’ clause in their contract, such as sorting postal packages, janitorial duties, mask policing and others.”

If passed, the resolution would not officially change the contract, but rather state that the Students’ Association is in favor of a change. Discussions and negotiations with Housing and Residential Life would determine what changes, if any, are necessary.

Several senators, including resolution co-sponsor Sen. Ravi Panchagnula, a former CA, have expressed concerns that the extra workload has impacted CAs’ ability to focus on their studies. Panchagnula believes that clarifying the contract would let CAs know what to expect when they apply to and are offered the position.

Typically, CAs are expected to work about 20 hours per week so they have time to complete schoolwork, according to Panchagnula.

“I was told there are students [now] who work more than 20 hours per week,” Panchagnula said. “That to me is not acceptable, because we say CAs are students first.”

However, an Honors Hall CA, who wished to remain anonymous to ensure job security, said that they have not had any problems with completing schoolwork and consistently work around 10 hours per week. They also said some current CAs, including some who know the co-sponsors of the resolution, were not contacted about the resolution before it was put forward.

“What was discussed as an entire staff, and what I think, is that it’s good intentions to clarify that clause so it’s not so open-ended,” the CA said. “The way they’re going about it I don’t necessarily agree with. It should at least be discussed with Housing and Residential Life before being put before SA in a resolution because of how it impacts little responsibilities that come up.”

The Honors CA added that while some might not think the changes made by Housing and Residential Life have done enough, they have found the office to be responsive to concerns.

Vice President of Student Affairs Michaela Willis, who represents the university administration in Senate meetings, said that Housing and Residential Life has worked with CAs over the past year to improve their experience. Since the beginning of the school year, their office has made several changes, including reducing desk hours, providing masks and aerosolized disinfectants and adapting the incident report form to include mask violations.

“We continue to be supportive of engaging with our student employees to understand their experiences and work collaboratively to improve those experiences,” Willis said. “This engagement with our CA team has been significant and ongoing, particularly this year, as all university employees are being asked to do different things to keep our university safe and healthy during a global pandemic.”

Panchagnula, SA President Hattie Seten and Sen. Andrew Rasmussen have said that Willis is not in favor of the resolution.

The resolution also requests that the specified duties exclude jobs carried out last year by different employees, including janitorial and Larson Mailroom staff. Willis said that no paid student positions have been removed by Housing and Residential Life this year.

Panchagnula said he believes some CAs do not feel comfortable coming forward with all of their concerns.

“To put it bluntly, CAs don’t want to lose their job,” Panchagnula said. “So for them, they would not be comfortable to come out and say that.”

Several senators also serve as CAs, and though Panchagnula wants everyone to vote regardless of whether they support or oppose the resolution, he understands that they might not want to put their CA jobs in jeopardy. 

When asked, Willis did not say that senators who work as CAs would necessarily be protected from repercussions based on their vote.

“The First Amendment does offer certain protections, but those protections do differ for employees and one must be cognizant of these differences to ensure they are within the bounds of the First Amendment,” Willis said. “However, when a conflict of interests exists, the option to abstain from a vote is always available for senators.”