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PBHA Summer Employees Face Delayed Stipends

Phillips Brooks House stands in the northwest corner of Harvard Yard and houses several College public service programs.
Phillips Brooks House stands in the northwest corner of Harvard Yard and houses several College public service programs. By Amy Y. Li
By Juliet E. Isselbacher and Amanda Y. Su, Crimson Staff Writers

The Phillips Brooks House Association has delayed payment of stipends to roughly 50 summer program employees, which has presented difficulties for students across the organization’s programs, according to several student employees.

Employees across the approximately 20 PBHA summer programs faced delays, though there was no central problem that provoked the holdups, PBHA executive director Maria J. Dominguez Gray said in a July 17 interview.

PBHA offers its roughly 200 summer employees campus housing and two swipes to Harvard dining halls each week, but student stipends were meant to cover employees’ additional meal costs during the summer. The stipends range from several hundred dollars for part-time employees to several thousand for full-time.

Juliana Lamy ’20, Adult English for Speakers of Other Languages director, said the Adult ESOL PBHA program staff comprises three full-time instructors, who receive their stipends in weekly installments, and three part-time instructors, who receive their stipends as lump sums.

As of mid-July, full-time workers were fully compensated but part-time workers had not received their payment, according to Lamy.

“With my understanding of the program, we didn't have a set date for our part time instructors to receive their stipend,” she said. “That's, unfortunately, where a lot of confusion came from and something I’m going to be taking into consideration for the program next year.”

Lamy said Sunday that part-time workers’ stipends were currently being processed.

Albert B. Zhang ’22, a part-time Adult English for Speakers of Other Languages instructor, said Adult ESOL part-time instructors were initially promised a $500 stipend. Zhang said Sunday he has not yet received his payment.

He said he and the other instructors housed in the Radcliffe Quadrangle have struggled throughout the summer to pay for meals out of pocket and only have access to one small shared kitchen.

“As a means of sustaining ourselves, we really had to stretch ourselves,” Zhang said.

Grey Devlin — a member of Wellesely College Class of 2022 working at the Y2Y youth homeless shelter — said employees, who began working at the beginning of June, were promised a taxable stipend of $4000.

Based on “normal payment practices,” Devlin said she assumed she would be paid weekly or biweekly but received her first paycheck the third week of July — six weeks into the program.

“It's helpful that we can eat meals at the shelter with our guests,” Devlin said. “To some extent it's good for food waste, but I don't think that's the purpose of the food.”

Ruth H. M. Jaensubhakij ’22, a Summer Urban Program Chinatown Adventure senior counselor, said it was primarily her program’s senior counselors who experienced delays.

She said other employees in her program did not experience issues because directors were already in the payroll system as they were hired much earlier in the year, and the program’s high school level junior counselors are paid through the Massachusetts government.

“Most people started getting checks I would say either this week or last week, so there was definitely a delay,” she said.

PBHA offered cash advances to help employees pay for their meals if they requested them and also hosted barbeques to support those facing delayed stipends, Dominguez Gray said.

“We’ve done our best to try to make whole whenever there are things in our control with getting people real time cash advances so they weren’t struggling financially,” Dominguez Gray said. “We apologize for the frustration that [these delays] may have caused.”

Dominguez Gray said common causes behind delayed paychecks were errors in filling out payroll forms — for example, unsuitable photo identification or outdated addresses, especially for incoming sophomores whose addresses recently changed.

“It’s complicated, and it’s not the same for any two people,” she said. “But everybody has been collectively teaming around this with 20 different spreadsheets of different issues, going person by person to address the issues.”

Jaensubhakij, however, said she is grateful for the transparent and constant communication from PBHA leadership.

Lamy said PBHA’s finance staff was “super responsive” throughout the process.

“I really do feel like PBHA finance staff to the best of their ability did everything in their power to rectify the situation,” she said. “It never really felt like they were being super secretive about anything that was going on there.”

Dominguez Gray said the majority of the issues have been resolved and PBHA staff and student leadership have been working “around the clock” to fix the remaining issues.

“We're going to do a more in depth study in the next few weeks to get at the themes and the more systemic stuff that came out of those individual stories for next year,” she said.

—Staff writer Juliet E. Isselbacher can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @julietissel.

—Staff writer Amanda Y. Su can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @amandaysu.

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