Photo by Jean Germano

As staff and students begin settling into a new school year, departments across the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus go through the student employment hiring process. However, many department heads have noticed a considerable slowdown on procedure for the 2019-20 school year.

Allison Garver, Assistant Director of Student Involvement at UWS, has noticed a particularly long back-up with student contracts. “One of my new staff members was hired, filled out and submitted all of the student employment paperwork on August 30, and I did not receive notification that she could begin work until September 24,” said Garver. She continued with, “This employee reached out to me to express her stress and frustration that the holdup was causing. As a single mother going back to school, not being able to work for a whole month really set her back financially.”

Jon Garver, the Sports Information Manager for UWS, has also observed the holdup in the hiring process. “In comparison to years past, this year has taken markedly longer to get student employees [working].” Garver also noted the contract holdups also impact departmental operations. “It has had a major impact on our ability to fully staff our athletic contests. We’ve had to move forward with some positions not filled for games, or we’ve had to have coaches and staff members from within the department volunteer because we haven’t had enough students hired.”

Nick Donahue, the Interim Assistant Director of Campus Recreation, has also had problems – however, with returning employees, not just new hires. Donahue said, “One of the students already worked in Campus Recreation and it took three weeks to process her contract. Students who turned in contracts after her got to start working before her.”

Other departments have tried to avoid potential contract holdups by waiting until later in the school year to hire students. T Leeper, EDI Coordinator for Gender and Sexuality Programs, decided to not hire any new students until later in the fall. “I know it will likely take a while to process the contract and thus would rather hire for spring instead of waiting to have someone work in fall,” said Leeper. Leeper explained that last fall they had a student who had to find a new job due to contract processing taking too long.

Both Donahue and Leeper said that one of the biggest drawbacks on their department from these contract holdups is a lack of training for student employees. Leeper said, “The main impact I’ve noticed is having to hold off on training and [starting] students because while they are ready to work, the contract isn’t finalized.”

“I understand that the start of the year is a busy time for student employment with the volume of paperwork and contracts to be approved, so I expect that it may take a few extra days, but not to the extent it has been this year,” said Allison Garver.

Garver added that she has heard that the criminal background check (CBC) has led to an increase in processing time for all student employees.

Donahue felt the “large increase of student contracts in the start of the year and not enough staff to process them” has led to the holdup.

There are several theories about what is causing these contract holdups.

When reached for comment, Donna Dahlvang, the financial aid director at UWS, said that UW-System policy indicates that a criminal background check may be required on all prospective hires, including student employees.

Dahlvang said “the decision was made to include all student employees (except performers) because many of the student employment positions are a ‘position of trust with access to vulnerable populations.’” Dahlvang added, “the majority of our student employees have more than one job on campus … making their transition to another job quicker.”

However, Dahlvang claims that there has not been a noticeable holdup in the processing of student contracts. “Our processing time for contracts has been within one week, for the heaviest two weeks, around the startup of the term, and has been 1-2 days otherwise.”

Rather than being a holdup from the Financial Aid Office, Dahlvang claims that the issue is from a lack of paperwork supplied by students. “We only have a portion of the required new hire paperwork from the student and cannot complete the new hire. Students may not begin working until their process is complete and they are cleared by the Student Employment Coordinator.”

Another potential issue is the student not activating their email with the third-party background check system employed by the university. Within three days of receiving an email the link expires. “If this occurs,” says Dahlvang, “we need to resend a link to the student, and the average completion time begins once the process is started.”

This is not a new issue, Dahlvang noted. “We have experienced issues with our CBC vendor in the past [year], both in completion time and miscommunication, and have addressed that directly with the company, as well as expressing concern over the vendor with the UW-System. That relieved some of the issue, but it has been continually intermittent. Other than those avenues of addressing the situation, we have little control over [the process].”

Dahlvang said that questions specific to the CBC policy may be directed to UWS’s HR office.

Moving forward, many staff members plan to change their hiring process. Like Leeper, Alison Garver said she plans to hire student employees in the spring, rather than primarily in fall. This will help ensure that staff is fully trained and ready for the start of the semester. The downside to this, as Garver mentioned, is that this policy “may not leave many job openings for new students arriving in the fall.”