As students seek out remote work opportunities, Harvard College Dean of Administration and Finance Sheila C. Thimba says the College can press, but not force, campus employers to offer jobs to undergraduates.
Thimba wrote that the College has endeavored in recent weeks to create remote employment opportunities for students precluded from working their on-campus jobs due to the undergraduate evacuation.
Faculty of Arts and Sciences Registrar Michael P. Burke told undergraduates last month that those who cannot perform their former on-campus jobs remotely should seek other online employment opportunities through the Student Employment Office.
Some students said, however, they have struggled to secure remote employment, finding few available opportunities on the SEO site. Others questioned why the College could not continue to pay undergraduates their weekly average if they cannot perform their term-time work remotely.
Responding to those concerns, Thimba wrote in an email that Harvard has seen additional job postings appear on the SEO database after encouraging departments that previously didn’t hire student employees to post new positions.
“We have also heard about positions that are available but were not posted on the SEO site, and hope that we can see more employers use the site,” she wrote.
She also explained that the College could not commit to paying students because they are employed by 170 departments across the University.
“Each campus employer has a budget for student employees that is not funded by the College and they made independent determinations about whether they had suitable work to continue to employ students,” she wrote.
Still, Thimba wrote that she was “gratified” the Faculty of Arts and Sciences chose to remove the term-time work expectation for students receiving financial aid and increased their scholarships by $875 to address their income continuity needs.
“But I’m aware that students may still need to work and will continue to encourage campus employers to think about employing students,” she added.
“For those who can’t, and for those who need to work in addition to earning a stipend, I do hope that they’ll be summer jobs they can apply to,” she wrote.
The Wiener Center for Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School was one among several campus employers creating new remote work opportunities for students.
Faculty director David J. Deming said the Wiener Center has recently subsidized faculty to hire 18 new student research assistants. He said the center will support 80 hours of work for each position, with the hope that the faculty will maintain the students for the summer and perhaps even next fall.
Deming said the center created the positions to “step into the void” created by the campus closure last month.
“We thought, why not try to stand this up rapidly and see if we can make a difference?” he said.
Deming said he partnered with Daniel M. “Dan” Lobo ’14 — assistant director of career services and president of the Harvard First Generation Alumni — among others, to advertise the new job opportunities to first generation, low income students. He also considered whether students had lost their former on-campus employment due to coronavirus when making hiring decisions.
Deming added that the center hoped to “seed some activity” at a time when it is difficult for faculty and on-campus employers to come up with funds.
“It’s like a startup accelerator, except for RA positions,” he said. “If we give it a little bit of a boost, then faculty are going to find, and students are going to find, great connections and great projects and get to know each other.”
“This is a time when everybody who’s got a little bit of capability to do something like this ought to step up,” Deming added. “I would love it if other centers and other faculty get inspired to help too.”
—Staff writer Juliet E. Isselbacher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @julietissel.
—Staff writer Amanda Y. Su can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandaysu.