Student workers left without income amid outbreak

To meet increased financial need, the Dartmouth Student Union reopened its mutual aid fund to prioritize those who lost work during the quarantine period.

by Madeleine Bernardeau | 3/4/21 2:05am


Novack Cafe is a major employer of students on campus. 

by Naina Bhalla / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

Following the College’s decision to return to phase two quarantine protocols and prolong the closure of indoor gathering spaces on Saturday as COVID-19 cases surged on campus, many student employees have found themselves suddenly out of work. While Novack Cafe, a hub for student employment, has retained limited hours of operation during the quarantine period, the cafe has temporarily replaced its student workers with Dartmouth Dining employees.

On Saturday, in response to Dean of the College Kathryn Lively’s announcement shifting campus back to quarantine restrictions, student Novack employees were informed that they would be out of work until further notice. As a result of the increased financial need prompted by the staffing changes at Novack and other campus facilities like the Winter Activities Center, the Dartmouth Student Union reopened its mutual aid funding request form, prioritizing student workers struggling during the outbreak. 

According to Damien Mazzola ’23, a student employee at Novack, the loss of work hours and subsequent earnings has disrupted their personal plans.

“It really is stressful because I was thinking about going home over spring break … but I wasn’t sure if I'd be able to easily afford it,” Mazzola said. “After work got canceled this week, I was kind of forced into accepting that I’m not going to be able to afford to go home over spring break.”

Mazzola said they will now be staying on campus over the interim period instead.

Novack student supervisor Alayah Johnson-Jennings ’21 said that while she sees the need to take precautions to protect students, the abrupt loss of income has made budgeting difficult and threatened some students’ financial security.

“I think the thing that's most frustrating is that it was halfway through the pay period,” she said. “[It’s frustrating] to be told, ‘Oh, just kidding, you're not going to get your money anymore, and the stuff that you spent was your last [full] paycheck.” 

According to DSU student organizers, the latest round of the mutual aid fund, which opened at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, ran out in roughly an hour. The DSU had raised $3,290 in donations in four days and offered stipends of up to $200 to students. The group received 24 requests for stipends through the form, and the primary reasons for aid requests were to cover rent, food, utilities, travel and medical bills.

“We've had to open [the mutual aid fund] four times just this term, whereas usually we only open it two times a term,” said DSU student organizer Adriana Heath ’23. “There are so many financially insecure students right now,” she added, citing both the recent loss of on-campus jobs and the broader uncertainty posed by the COVID-19 pandemic as notable sources of financial instability.

While Mazzola was not able to receive aid from the DSU’s fund before it ran out, they commended the group for its support of the Dartmouth community. 

“I think it's a great program,” Mazzola said, “But on the other hand, I think it's kind of unfortunate that we have to depend on our fellow students for mutual aid. I feel like if Dartmouth could have planned for a crisis with student employment like this beforehand, this could be potentially much easier and less stressful.”