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Dear Decaturish – A student’s concerns about employment issues at Agnes Scott

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Dear Decaturish – A student’s concerns about employment issues at Agnes Scott

Agnes Scott College. Photo by Dean Hesse.
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Dear Decaturish,

This letter is addressed to the President and Board of Trustees of Agnes Scott College.

I am a second-year student at Agnes Scott who is writing to share concerns about employment practices at our institution. I am aware that most board members, and even the President, are not a regular part of life on campus, so I want to share how employment issues at Agnes Scott impact students. While I am only speaking for myself in this letter, the recent engagement of hundreds of my classmates with the campus Living Wage Campaign shows that students are overwhelmingly invested in seeing change in this area.

This semester, I have noticed that dining staff contracted under Aramark have been moved from their previous stations, while others have to work multiple stations at once.

Additionally, some stations that had previously provided options for students who are vegan, vegetarian, and/or gluten-free have been cut altogether, especially on weekends and during dinner. More workers need to be hired so that the workload for each person remains reasonable and students with dietary restrictions have options. Staff contracted through Aramark also continue to be paid below a living wage. I ask that you consider what it means for a historically women’s college to pay working parents and grandparents wages that make it a struggle to afford childcare, transportation, housing, and food costs. The college’s mission for students “engage with the social and intellectual challenges of our time” is meaningless when paired with the institution’s refusal to meet basic demands social movements have been making for decades.

My experiences working full-time have taught me the importance of good pay, autonomy, and support in the workplace. Those conditions allow people to take pride in their work and to both feel and actually be valued. While Agnes Scott employees express endless care for students, we cannot ask them to be part of our community if they are not able to get what they need and deserve from their daily contributions. Some workers have already found better opportunities elsewhere. If Agnes Scott and the companies with which it contracts continue to undervalue the people whose skills allow it to function, it will continue to hemorrhage employees to the detriment of us all. We want to see the college put in place structures of accountability to students and employees that are on our terms; not the college’s or Aramark’s.

I am troubled that the school has not communicated with students at all about the expansion of its contract with Aramark, a company with which we already experience issues. When we have expressed concerns about the contract, members of the administration have argued that upward mobility for students must come at the cost of college employees’ abilities to make ends meet. It is angering to see members of the administration use the language of social justice and empowerment while overseeing an institution that balances its budget on the backs of workers of color. This is not a sustainable way to create community. We want to see Agnes Scott immediately raise pay, make an effort to hire more staff at fair wages, and meet the demands that Dining and Facilities unions are making for their contracts, especially in regards to maintaining their benefits. I would appreciate the chance to bring classmates and alumni to a meeting to discuss these concerns further.

Thank you,

Julia Rademacher-Wedd, Agnes Scott Class of 2025

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