BSG and BLA discuss under- and uncompensated student labor
April 21, 2023
The Bowdoin Labor Alliance (BLA) and Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) convened on Wednesday night to discuss the BLA’s latest campaign to confront under- and uncompensated labor on campus.
Over leftover pizza from the earlier presidential debate, BLA members Rachel Klein ’24 and Ahmad Abdulwadood ’24 gave an overview of the group’s achievements and aspirations and fielded questions from BSG members, often referencing their recent op-ed and petition, which has received around 320 signatures.
BSG asked Klein and Abdulwadood if there is a method for submitting anonymous complaints (this is not possible due to legal constraints), if student workers are unionized (they are not) and how the BLA’s meeting with administration on Tuesday went (it was largely introductory).
Much of the discussion hinged on a comparison of the paid work that craft center leaders do and the unpaid work that Bowdoin Outing Club (BOC) officers do. The administration’s cited argument is that BOC officers have more personal autonomy within their roles while craft center employees have a more rigid set of responsibilities. Conversely, the BLA maintains that the roles of BOC student administrators resemble paid positions on campus and should be compensated. Though BLA members said this example was useful to the discussion, they emphasized that they did not want to hone in on one specific form of unpaid labor at the expense of the general issue.
Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Dean of Student Life Katie Toro-Ferrari, who advises BSG but normally abstains from discussions, interjected to offer an explanation of how different clubs and organizations get funded and recommended that future discussions focus more on how the College funding systems work.
Also discussed was the asymmetry of labor on campus that under- and uncompensated work creates. BSG and the BLA asserted that students who are seeking to work the maximum-allowed 20 hours per week often have to take up dining jobs, which means that these positions are likely primarily filled by students with lesser financial means. They said that many found this reality troubling, as dining jobs are widely considered some of the most labor-intensive on campus.
In statements unassociated with the BLA’s current campaign, President Susu Gharib ’23 voiced her support for student dining worker unionization. Res-life-appointed BSG representative and student body presidential candidate Paul Wang ’24 praised Tufts University’s recent support of student worker unionization and argued that Bowdoin could do the same.
Following the discussion with the BLA, members of BSG called for entertainment hosts for Harpswell Quad Day during Ivies Weekend, without which the event cannot happen. Members also voted to fund a softball food truck for parents, fans and players as part of the team’s Senior Day celebration, separate from the food trucks at Quad Day.
The meeting wrapped up with updates on various class projects, including an event with Dog Bar Jim during Ivies for the Class of 2024 and by announcing that there will soon be another mental health forum.
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