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Directed to Seek Remote Employment, Students Say Harvard Has Not Provided Sufficient Job Offerings

Dorm Crew — a program in which undergraduates clean other students' bathrooms for pay — is one employer of College students on campus.
Dorm Crew — a program in which undergraduates clean other students' bathrooms for pay — is one employer of College students on campus. By MyeongSeo Kim
By Juliet E. Isselbacher and Amanda Y. Su, Crimson Staff Writers

UPDATED: April 9, 2020, 11:30 a.m.

After the closure of Harvard’s campus last month spelled the sudden end of many undergraduates’ campus jobs, students seeking online employment to supplement lost income say Harvard has failed to offer them a sufficient array of work opportunities.

Faculty of Arts and Sciences Registrar Michael P. Burke wrote in an email to 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.

But some students say finding such opportunities has been a challenge. Joseph A. Hasbrouck ’20, who worked as a manager of Quincy House Grille on campus, said he feels the directive to seek remote employment is “unrealistic.”

“A lot of the jobs on campus don't have any remote opportunity,” he said. “You can't do Dorm Crew right from home. You can't work at an on-campus restaurant or one of the cafes from home. And so, for a lot of these things, there just aren't opportunities available to replace them.”

As of Tuesday evening, filtering the Student Employment Office’s job database for remote jobs offered during the spring semester of this academic year yielded just 17 total postings.

Of those 17 current job offerings, just four positions list Harvard as the employer. They include a writing and social media intern at the Harvard Library; a social and digital media program assistant at the Harvard School of Public Health’s Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness; a research assistant at the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative; and a podcast host and production intern at Harvard Library Communications.

Only the latter two of those four positions are available to undergraduates.

In his email to students last month, Burke noted that undergraduates whose financial aid packages included a term-time work expectation will now only have to fund half of that original expectation.

Some students, however, said they rely on-campus employment not merely to fulfill term-time work expectations, but also to financially support themselves and their families.

Marcus M. Trenfield ’21, a former Dorm Crew employee, said he typically aimed to work six hours each week while on campus to pay for medication to manage a chronic illness.

“The idea was, let me work an on-campus job so that I can lift that toll off my parents, especially since they already have a lot of medical debt on my behalf from the time it took to get a diagnosis,” he said.

Trenfield, who said he is on “significant financial aid,” explained his need for income only increased upon leaving campus after his father lost half his working hours due to the pandemic.

His father then fell sick and was forced to self-isolate, Trenfield said. These circumstances, coupled with the chance that his mother, too, could become ill, threatened financial trouble for his family.

“When I was applying, these circumstances brought an added motivator for me to make sure I had a job,“ Trenfield explained.

Trenfield checked the Student Employment Office database, but said he had little luck finding a job for which he felt he had the requisite background skills.

“There was, at the time, maybe like two or three online jobs,” he said. “I actually ended up applying to jobs outside of the website.”

Trenfield, who ultimately settled for a remote position as an English teacher, said the database still has “very few” jobs in proportion to the “sheer number” of students looking for employment right now.

“I'd imagine there's a lot of students who find themselves in a position where they need a way to make some sort of supplemental income to support their family,” he said. “And Harvard's not really offering that.”

College spokesperson Rachael Dane did not provide on-the-record comment on the number of job listings or the student criticisms.

Kyle O’Connor ’22, who worked as a shelving assistant at Harvard Business School’s library, said the physical threat of the coronavirus has also limited students’ opportunities to find jobs in their local areas.

“Right now, just in the climate that we're in, I've noticed that the jobs that are available are high-risk ones on the front line, like grocery stores and stuff,” he said. “If people are very worried about their health, then it's not really an option for people with compromised immune systems or other health issues.”

Other students said they have appreciated that their on-campus employers have been flexible in allowing them to transition to remote work and log online hours.

Olivia M. Hall ’21, who held jobs at the Eliot House Grille and Academic Resource Center, said she is grateful she can continue her latter role remotely, despite losing the former. She added that ARC has continued to pay tutors and has not altered employees’ hours.

Paul D. Tamburro ’21, who gives tours at the Harvard Art Museums, said he and his fellow guides have been working remotely to promote community engagement and give virtual tours on Zoom to senior citizens.

Tamburro, a former Crimson news editor, added the museum guides can also bill hours for doing research on artwork for future tours, or for making playlists for the museums’ various galleries.

“I'm working more than I expected to,” he said. “We're really encouraged to be creative too, which is nice.”

—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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