Spring Delegates’ Agenda presenter Jesse Koons’ mother worked as a custodian and cafeteria worker in educational institutions. His grandfather worked as a custodian and his girlfriend’s parents also work as custodians. At the spring Delegates’ Agenda Koons asked the administration to provide tuition benefits to contract workers.
Koons sat alone at the administration’s response to the Delegates’ as administrative presenters Chief Financial Officer Greg Gunderson and Chief Officer of Human Resources Betsy Schmutz listed several of what they referred to as realities that made tuition benefits for contract workers impossible.
“Once you start offering one benefit to someone who is not a direct employee, where do you stop?” Schmutz asked. “We feel very strongly that our first priority on these benefits is to our employees here at Webster University.”
Gunderson said Webster’s part-time employees are not even offered the benefits the Delegates’ wanted for contract workers. Schmutz added that Sodexo’s on-campus management said none of their workers were currently using Sodexo’s offered educational benefits.
Sodexo, a contractor that provides food and custodial services to Webster, offers a partial tuition reimbursement benefit for employees, as long as they take classes that relate to their current jobs. Follett, who employs book store employees, offers full-tuition reimbursement for any classes taken, according to their website’s employee benefits page.
Gunderson and Schmutz announced two new scholarships for current, on-site, full-time workers and dependents under 25. The scholarships will be offered starting in Fall 2015. Koons said he felt the scholarships did not go far enough.
“I was pretty disappointed. I was glad they did implement something. But it definitely didn’t feel like enough,” Koons said. “It only affects two people.”
Koons said Webster’s belief that contract employees are not their responsibility is the administration’s way of avoiding the topic. He said the administration’s list of reasons should not have kept the university from doing more.
“I was really disappointed with that kind of critique of my argument,” Koons said. “It felt like they were passing the buck. You can put it on the employers, but this is an ideal institution and for them to just retreat to things that are realities seems like kind of a cop out.”
Director of Public Relations Patrick Giblin said it is highly unusual for a university to offer benefits to people who are not university employees. He said it is the sole responsibility of the contract company to offer benefits to the employees.