UCCS approved a stipend of $175 to support the Resident Assistants (RAs) working over winter break.
Sophomore Isabella Polombo and Noelle Lopez began the ongoing petition that led to this decision in October 2022 and received SGA recognition in November. It was created to advocate for better RA compensation on campus.
“Stipends as a whole have not been initiated, but at least the winter stipend is a start,” Lopez said. “We’ve seen many years of winter RAs working who [were] not getting their full compensation during that period.”
Lopez believes that the winter stipend marks a permanent change to the compensation RAs receive and sets the standard for what she and Polombo want the petition to accomplish going forward.
According to the petition, some RAs have been forced to quit because the compensation does not adequately cover their living expenses, and the amount of work the job requires prohibits them from seeking monetary resources elsewhere.
“Money definitely adds value to the job and makes people want to stay more,” Lopez said. “The RA job right now has a very high turnover rate. So with establishing stipends, or starting to initiate [them], that attracts more people.”
Lopez and Polombo believe that establishing stipends will mend this retention issue and send the message that the university values the kind of work that RAs do.
“There’s a huge importance in setting the standard, and I think that’s something that the university is not used to doing. It’s used to watching other schools [take] those first steps and then following suit,” Polombo said.
“I think UCCS is a better campus than that, and realistically, it’s better to set that standard not only for the RAs here, but also for the other RAs across the CU system who are going through similar problems with their administrations.”
Lopez and Polombo are drafting further solutions to RA compensation that will be presented before the CU Board of Regents in Feb. 2023.
“Something that we asked for in the petition was a price classification of the rooms specifically for RAs so that housing has less of a burden when it comes to addressing stipend,” Polombo said.
“The Board of Regents are the only people that have the power to change that price classification point, so that is something we are also planning on addressing [in February].”
Both Polombo and Lopez believe that RAs need to be given fair and livable compensation even though their positions are not permanent.
“We may be temporary workers, but we still deserve basic human respect,” Lopez said. “Our university has the potential for growth, but there is a broken system in place — and a broken system remains in place because we are compliant to it.”
In support of the RAs, United Campus Workers Colorado (UCW Colorado), a CU system employment-focused union, has been working alongside Polombo and Lopez. They have helped promote the petition, provide extra money (on top of the winter stipend) for RAs working on campus during the break and donate meals to the RAs over Thanksgiving.
“We really want to appreciate UCW and let student employees know that this is a resource on campus that is helpful … [and] a great support network,” Lopez said.
The RA petition will continue to rotate around campus in the spring with support from UCW Colorado, SGA and other university organizations. Updates to the petition will be posted as they happen on change.org.
Photo from oeconline.org.