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Students working for university shouldn’t require manager approval of other employment

October 19 2018 —

Gaining work experience while earning your degree is a task that most university students must balance. Part of becoming an adult during your time as an undergraduate student is learning to uphold shifting priorities personally and professionally. Maintaining part-time employment allows students to fund their studies, as well as gain experience that can be utilized beyond school into their respective career paths.

The University of Calgary provides many of these part-time roles to students, from desk jobs at Active Living to research positions under a professor’s supervision.

However, compensation from a single part-time role is often not enough to cover expenses. To simply make ends meet, many students have to look for additional jobs to supplement their income to continue their education. But it may soon become more difficult for students to hold multiple jobs if they’re working on campus.  

Proposed Code of Conduct revisions for the U of C will now require employees, including students working for the university, to gain approval from a manager to hold additional employment. The amendments to the code were mandated by changes to the provincial Conflict of Interests Act in December 2017.  This requirement, however, is highly concerning for students.

“If you want to take another job, you have to get your manager to approve that before you can take any other employment,” said Karen Jackson, the U of C’s general counsel, at the Oct. 9 Students’ Legislative Council meeting

Jackson said that the change stems from the province’s Ethics Commission, which holds universities and their employees to the same standard as ministerial or public service employment. This shift in perspective is the driving force in the amendment. Despite the fact that Jackson also mentions that many stakeholders, including the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, were not happy about these amendments, she says there’s no room for changes.

“Unfortunately with the Code, we don’t have much room to really do any changes. A lot of what’s in the material [of the Code of Conduct revisions] was dictated by the Office of the Ethics Commissioner,” said Jackson.

It’s a lacklustre response, as was the acquiescence of members of SLC. Though members posed questions to clarify what the requirement would entail, such as whether employment held before the amendments are made would have to be disclosed — and it does — no one directly raised concerns.

Several concerns should be raised for students employed by the university. If the policy truly cannot be changed back to its previous iteration where students did not require a manager’s approval to hold other employment due to provincial regulation, reversing that regulation should immediately become an advocacy priority.

This amendment not only undermines the personal autonomy of students but also makes U of C positions less accessible to those who cannot afford to live off of a single part-time role. It provides an unnecessary hurdle to clear for capable applicants seeking employment at the U of C compared to those who are able to afford only having one job.

As someone who has continually worked multiple jobs to fund my education, needing an employer to give me permission to seek out additional employment sets a dynamic that crosses the boundary from professional to personal. It is my choice to work as much or as little as I can. Having another person dictate what students can and cannot do with their personal time discredits their freedom of choice.

Furthermore, this poses the question of what occurs when a manager denies an employee seeking additional employment due to a perceived conflict of interest. Will there be an appeals structure in place? Can people who already have a part-time role also be denied a potential role with the U of C because of their existing employment? What does acquiring disclosure and management approval for student employees truly gain for the institution, beyond further disconnecting itself from the student experience, which includes student employment?

Having multiple jobs as a student doesn’t necessarily mean that your work with the U of C will suffer. In its previous iteration, you did not have to disclose other employment unless it became an issue and management approval was never required.

While this provincial mandate and resulting university policy change may have been the province’s response to conflicts of interests in administration, it will now affect student employment. The policy disenfranchises U of C students who are also employees who cannot sustain themselves in singular roles.

Gurman SahotaGauntlet Editorial Board

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