The UC Student Association released a list of demands to the University of California regarding UCPath on Wednesday, calling for the system to provide restitution for students who have not been paid and for halting rollout of the system until problems have been addressed.
UC Santa Barbara began transitioning to UCPath at the beginning of this quarter, hoping to create a more streamlined approach to paying its workers, according to the UCPath website.
The UC Student Association (UCSA), an organization dedicated to advocating “on behalf of current and future students for the accessibility, affordability, and quality” of the UC system, said UC “has not been paying its student workers” since the implementation of UCPath earlier this year.
“Checks that are received often are for the wrong amount,” the UCSA letter read. “With the number of students who rely on being paid on time to pay rent, buy groceries, or pay student fees to enroll in their classes this is unacceptable.”
A copy of the UCSA demands to UC are listed below:
- “Immediately correct the payroll system to ensure that workers will get paid correctly and on time, particularly for those with multiple jobs and those relying on fee remission;
- “Acknowledge the grievances that the UC Student-Workers Union (UAW) filed on behalf of ASEs at UCR, UCSB, UCLA, and UC Merced;
- “Provide reparations to all students affected whether or not they are represented by a Union;
- “Expand financial crisis services specifically for all students affected;
- “Meet with student leaders and UC Student-Workers Union (UAW) representatives to discuss how to best support students affected by these problems; and
- “Immediately halt to the implementation of phases 1 and 2 of the UCPath rollout until the problems stated in this letter are addressed.”
Claire Doan, director of media relations within the UC Office of the President (UCOP), said 99 percent of UC employees have been paid “accurately and on time with UCPath.”
With each each campus transition to this new system, we plan for unforeseen issues by maintaining extra support staff to stay on following implementation,” Doan said in an email. “The additional staff and resources at UC Santa Barbara will be there at least through the end of the year to help address problems.”
Doan said UCOP has a team in place dedicated to helping students and looking at potentially “reimbursing students for interest or late fees due to UCPath complications.”
“We understand students’ concerns and frustrations, and we are sorry about the problems associated with any instances of delayed processing of salaries and benefits due to the UCPath transition.
Cierra Sorin, UCSB’s Graduate Student Association (GSA) President, said that while UC Santa Barbara administrators have been working with the GSA to combat the issues stemming from defaulted payments, many of the issues must be resolved at the UCPath hub located at UC Riverside.
“The problem is that UCPath was designed to decentralize a lot of things, and so a lot of the struggle has been, and I think continues to be, things that our payroll folks and our department officers used to be able to do, they no longer can,” she said.
At UCSB, students affected by the defaulted payments can apply for emergency loans, although Sorin believes the program should be more widely publicized in light of the payment issues.
She also said that university housing had been flexible with rent payments.
Sorin herself had not been paid in October, and as a result was not able to pay for her university housing until the end of the month. She said, however, that she had not incurred any late fees.
“What has been happening with housing is people have been encouraged if there is an issue with them being able to pay rent to send an email to housing,” she said.
“I don’t know how widely this has been advertised and it’s something I will be speaking with admin about, because I had been hoping an email would be sent out to all folks who live in housing and are potentially experiencing problems, and I haven’t seen one.”
Sorin lauded the UCSA demands for presenting a unified front to the UC on behalf of all UC students.
“What I see this as is the UC community…[of] graduate students and undergraduate students coming together and telling the University of California that it is unacceptable that there continue to be this many problems with people being paid accurately and on time,” she said.
The UCSA letter writes that UC Riverside and UC Merced experienced problems with UCPath when it was first implemented at those campuses in January 2018, without any structural fixes from the UC.
“These issues continued to occur months after the initial rollout, leading student leaders from UC Riverside to reach out to the Office of the President and the UC Regents last Spring. However, there have been inconsistent improvements since they first came forward and these problems have continued to persist when UCPath expanded to other UCs,” the letter read.
The UCSB GSA sent out a survey to graduate students to collect responses about issues they’ve run into after hearing from the UC Riverside GSA about their problems with UCPath, Sorin said.
“We heard about a lot of the problems [UC Riverside has] had on their campus, and how they’ve snowballed month to month, and so we wanted to see if we were starting to experience those same problems here at UCSB,” she added.
Beside the typical problems like being unable to pay rent or purchase food, the issues with UCPath have left students unable to pay for classes or receive parking and transportation benefits, Head UAW 2865 Steward Avi McClelland-Cohen previously told the Nexus.
UAW 2865 is the union that represents UC student workers, but primarily graduate students.
In addition to being low on funds due to defaulted payments, students then have to pay more money out of pocket to make up for the lack of benefits, particularly with transportation, added Sorin.
Sorin believes the root cause of the lack of structural reform is because the UC was unaware of the issues.
“Even here at Santa Barbara, [the GSA executive board] had a meeting with [Anne and Michael Towbes Graduate] Dean [Carol] Genetti, earlier in the quarter,” Sorin said. “They had told us they were unaware of anything except fee remission issues up to this point because no one had shared information with us about what was happening.”
Now that the UCSA has presented these demands to the UC Regents and UCOP, Sorin hopes more immediate and effective change is implemented.
“[I hope] that President Napolitano and the UC Regents take this seriously, and invest time and energy into fixing these problems immediately such that our December paychecks are delivered on time,” she said. “I’m not optimistic though.”
A version of this article appeared on p. 3 of the Nov. 15 print edition of the Daily Nexus.