Viking Guides to no longer receive stipend
Viking Guides have always helped freshmen transition into college, and the position has traditionally been voluntary—until 2014 when Campus Life expanded the position and started paying guides a $200 stipend.
Director of Campus Life Corey Kopp said the university had to compensate the guides to justify increasing their responsibilities and extending their contracts to the end of October.
Next fall semester, however, Viking Guides will no longer receive the $200. Instead, their wages will be redistributed as funding for group activities, and they will work only until the end of September.
The change has created mixed feelings among Viking Guides, pulling some between the honor of volunteerism and the desire of just payment.
Every year, two Viking Guides pair up to help a handful of freshmen adjust to college. During Welcome Week, guides help freshmen move their furniture and accessories into Bergsaker and Solberg Halls and plan activities to help break the ice.
Junior Shay Norris has been a guide for two years and said next academic year will make it three. The wage change doesn’t bother him too much, but he understands that it could for others.
“I mean, $200 isn’t even that much to begin with for all the time we put in,” Norris said. “But I’d say as a group we would say it’s not about the pay. I think we’d agree it’s not fair, but it’s for the experience and the relationships.”
Viking Guides, especially the week before freshmen move-in day and Welcome Week, devote hours, if not full days, to training, activities and meetings, Norris said. He describes it as “heavy involvement” for two weeks straight, before the intensity declines.
After Welcome Week, guides, until the end of September, are required to work two events for the 30-Day Challenge and one two-hour shift managing the front desks of the freshmen residence halls.
Norris said it’s not hard work, and is actually fun, but he said the requirements are “a lot of little things that add up.”
Some of next year’s changes were a response to guides’ concerns of the work requirements, Kopp said. If guides are feeling overworked, he said Campus Life has a responsibility to react, and, as a plus, the reduced outreach time pushes the organization to create more effective activities for freshmen.
“Generally, research will tell you the first four-to-six weeks are the most crucial for a first-year student’s transition,” Kopp said. “We’ve found that we’re doing most [of the] work that needs to be done through September, and after that it feels forced, and it feels forced to us and the students.”
Next fall will be junior Maggie Green’s second time as a guide.
She doesn’t mind the changes but said that taking away the compensation seems “a little weird” because it may deter students from ending their summer job early to work without pay and because Campus Life has struggled to fill positions in the past.
“They had 17 freshmen to a pair of guides some years,” Green said, “so if you want [a smaller amount] of freshmen in groups, you might want to pay people so they want to do it.”
Kopp said Campus Life leaders discussed whether no stipend would mean fewer applicants, but, after hearing from guides, they decided retracting the stipend and using the money to finance group activities instead meshed with the responsibilities of the role.
“I don’t want to suggest that anyone said, ‘don’t give me $200,’ because I don’t think that’s what’s been happening,” Kopp said. “But guides told us, very clearly, that it was more important to them to have money to do things with their groups than it was to get paid on an individual basis. That allows them to put the money toward the experience for the first-year students, giving them more flexibility in how they engage with their students.”
Kopp said any money the guides do not put toward their group will be returned to Campus Life.
Going forward, Campus Life will be looking for ways to compensate guides, Kopp said. If the 2017 freshmen class is as large as predicted and future classes continue the trend, he said compensation, even starting at just $100 for each guide, could begin in the fall of 2018 because there would be a larger budget.
“We’re not looking at this as a permanent solution for Viking Guide compensation, but we are looking at this as an opportunity to take us in a direction that will be more meaningful for first-year students and the guides,” he said. “Of course we would love to pay them the $200 and give them a programming budget, or pay them more than the $200, but those are dollars we just don’t have right now.”