As a fresh-out-of-grad-school residence life person, I’m still juggling my job duties. I’m adjusting to a new school culture, and trying to figure out where the heck the Einstein’s is located on campus. So, when every student affairs-related Facebook page, professional organization, and newsletter started filling with FLSA-related issues, I struggled to figure out my own stance on this ruling. How it would affect my very-new job? If you’re like me and still trying to fully grasp this ruling, NASPA’s policy and practice publication was very helpful.
Now that my institution is getting closer to a way to work FLSA’s regulations, it came time to start to transition into our new practices. This was great, in my opinion, because it meant we weren’t keeping our student staff in the dark. FLSA would affect them, as well. I was super-optimistic (positivity is my top strength in StrengthsQuest, so that wasn’t a surprise) and had just brushed up on the ruling. I entered my student staff meeting with confidence that they would be excited about this ruling, too. It allowed people in positions similar to mine to have this weird work-life balance that everyone had been mentioning to me since graduate school. Why wouldn’t people be pumped about it?
My staff was speechless after I told them the basic outline, which was that I would be working 40 hours a week. If I worked over that, I would be adjusting my time in the afternoons and possibly leaving an hour or two early some days. I would be sure to contact them about that in advance. They didn’t understand. Suddenly, they had to let me know in advance when hosting a program so I could adjust my schedule. They could still email me on the weekends, but it may not be read until Monday. They could text me on the weekend, but I may not respond. This was so drastic for them that I was also kind of shocked by their reactions.
I mean, this wasn’t that drastic….was it?
So, I spoke to a few coworkers and friends from other campuses. I soon gathered that this response from student staff wasn’t unique to my staff. Students were concerned, worried, confused, and even a bit resentful. Students were asking my RD friends if they even wanted to attend a program. They asked how an RD would choose which program they would attend that week. After all, they probably couldn’t attend all five. Did that mean we were picking favorites?
And what about seeing us in the hall on a Friday night? Could they ask us a quick question? Or would that suddenly put us into “work hours” that we would have to log to our supervisors? When a friend attended a student staff intramural team to support, another RA asked if they truly wanted to be there. Or were they just meeting their weekly quota of attending a staff-related program?
That comment that broke my heart.
I realized in our attempt to explain FLSA to ourselves, we may have missed how important it is to explain it to student staff, too. They are used to us staying out until 10 p.m. at a program, responding to a text at 7 p.m., or popping into a debrief at 8 p.m.
By taking the time to answer questions and practice some of these new guidelines, I’ve seen a greater shift in understanding. I think this will benefit everyone when this ruling goes into effect. I encourage people to take the time to talk to their student staff about FLSA and your department’s plans. My staff is integral to me being able to function at the top of my game in this role. So, having them understand this law and back our department’s decision is huge.
Come at us, FLSA. We are ready for you!
> BONUS <
Podcast With Wimer Alberto on Housing Operations