College sees dip in student job availability amid pandemic

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Photo: Lizzie Heintz

The old student mailroom in the basement of the Colonial Building.

By Julia Burns

At the onset of the pandemic, mass layoffs and unemployment decimated the U.S. and its businesses. Now, in Emerson’s first full semester during COVID-19, some students struggled to secure the on-campus job opportunities they used to rely on.

Job opportunities through the college have taken a modest dip this semester—from 1,100 in fall 2019 to 950 now—partly due to challenges presented by the pandemic, Senior Associate Director of Student Financial Services Eric Glaskin said. Those jobs have shifted to adapt to new safety regulations. 

“Most positions weren’t actually cut,” Glaskin said. “Most positions were able to move remote. We did work with supervisors to think creatively on how they could have their students working remotely.” 

These new adjustments and regulations affected nearly all on-campus jobs. Tour guides now work virtually, taking participants around via cyber-tour. Students at the tap desk no longer sign in guests. Library employees now must quarantine books before allowing patrons to check them out. 

Certain jobs offered by Emerson, like those at the library, actually took on even more student employees than usual this semester, Glaskin said.

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But some student employers could not offer the same reliability. Some jobs could not be shifted to remote and are now operating under significantly curtailed hours. Jobs through third parties—like Collegiate Press, who operates the college’s mailroom—cut out student jobs entirely due to new safety restrictions from the college on working with outside vendors.

Junior Kelleigh Levesque had been working as an usher at ArtsEmerson, the college’s professional theatre organization, since her first year. When she decided to return to campus for the fall semester, she found there were severely limited hours at her job, as use of Emerson’s theaters for performance has been significantly curtailed. 

“As a student employee who uses that money to grocery shop and support myself in Boston, and as someone who doesn’t get much support from anywhere else, I really needed a really reliable source of income,” Levesque said. 

The minimal hours were not enough for Levesque, so she had to look elsewhere. She now works as a barista at Starbucks to support herself. There, she said, the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for workers is far higher than at her old job.

“I’m petrified going to work every day because it’s not like Emerson standards—not everyone’s getting tested weekly,” Levesque said.

Levesque said she wished that the college had communicated with her more after it wasn’t viable to continue her ArtsEmerson usher job. 

“Emerson as a whole just needs to be more communicative with us, like even a simple email with just like, ‘Do you need a job? Do you need income? Here are some resources,’” she said. “I don’t feel like Emerson always provides easy resources for those who need income and who need to support themselves as students.” 

Collegiate Press also operates the college’s print and copy center. Junior Max Internoscia, who worked at the mailroom since his first year at the college, received an email in July saying student mailroom employees wouldn’t be brought back.

“As a precautionary measure we (Business Services) have asked our vendors not to schedule student employees for the fall,” the email read.

Collegiate Press now has its own employees working in the mailroom.

Internoscia said the income he received from his mailroom job was a source of independence. 

“I felt good about it,” Internoscia said. “Now, you have to go back to when you’re in high school and say, ‘Hey, Mom, can I have $50 to do this and that.’” 

While Internoscia understands these are unprecedented times, he feels as though mailroom employees could’ve safely gone about their jobs. 

“I understand the gravity of the situation. But if you’re already testing us once a week, I feel we’re pretty much safe,” Internoscia said. 

Glaskin said students who are still looking for employment can reach out to Emerson’s student employment coordinators.

“[They will] take a look and see in the inventory of what’s still open to see where he can help students apply or help them find a job,” Glaskin said. “If we have other areas that we find out that you know what they’re looking at starting to hire, we can start pushing students in the direction.” 

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