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Friday, Sep 29, 2023

MiddView and First@Midd Leaders still awaiting compensation for work

College says to expect stipends on Nov. 18

Middlebury orientation leaders are expected to receive a $300 stipend in November for their work with first-year students at the beginning of the semester.
Middlebury orientation leaders are expected to receive a $300 stipend in November for their work with first-year students at the beginning of the semester.

When students applied to become orientation leaders, they did not know their work would be compensated this year. In the beginning of their training week, both MiddView and First@Midd leaders were told that they would receive a stipend for their work, though the amount was not disclosed. 

Nine weeks into the semester, orientation leaders have yet to receive their stipends. Student Activities Office employees informed leaders of delays and said in mid-October that they should expect payment just before Thanksgiving break. A Nov. 9 email from a staff member from the Office of the Dean of Students to a MiddView leader said that they are now expecting payments to be issued on Friday, Nov. 18.

Pay delays

Many leaders expressed frustration about the lack of communication regarding when the stipends would be issued.

Both orientation groups, First@Midd and MiddView, used group chatting apps to communicate with college staff running orientation programs. When leaders were not being updated about the status of the stipend, they reached out to the orientation team through their respective groups.

On Sept. 25, a MiddView leader messaged the group’s Slack channel asking when leaders should expect to get paid. Valerie Nettleton, director of student involvement and leadership development, replied that she had “just learned the processing of the payment has been delayed due to an unexpecting staffing delay but payment should be processed in the next few weeks.”

On Oct. 17, another MiddView leader asked for an update on the payment. Nettleton replied that “The person processing these payments just returned from leave and is working with accounts payable to get these processed.”

In a recent email to MiddView leaders, Erin Morrison, assistant director of first year experience for orientation, reassured students that they would receive their payments in November.

“You should expect your payment in November, just before your break,” Morrison wrote. “I wish it could have been sooner (and I’m sure you do too!) but new systems have taken longer than expected to process.”

First@Midd leaders have faced the same delay as MiddView leaders. They also remain uninformed about when they should expect their stipend and why there has been such a long delay. Although MiddView leaders were updated about when to expect their payment, First@Midd leaders told The Campus they had not received an email update about the status of their stipend.

Some MiddView leaders raised concerns about the limited communication they received about pay.

“MiddView should have been more transparent with how much we’d be getting paid and keep us more frequently updated on when we’d be paid,” said Claudia Etrillard ’25, who served as a MiddView leader this fall.

Harris McCartney ’24.5, another MiddView leader, expressed concern that due to the multiple payment delays, the orientation team might have a hard time getting leaders to return — or even getting leaders to sign up in the first place.

“Orientation is a bedrock of the student experience here and if you’re not able to get orientation leaders for it then that’s going to be detrimental to that,” McCartney said. “Lack of pay and being underpaid is not going to help them retain or get new leaders.”

Compensation for orientation leaders

The slowdown in issuing stipends and lack of communication about delays was not the only frustration MiddView leaders expressed about the pay process. Last spring, a group of MiddView leaders advocated for compensation for orientation leaders, publishing an op-ed in The Campus.

“In order to foster the close-knit environments of MiddView groups many leaders are so passionate about, the program needs more leaders,” the leaders wrote in the op-ed. “A stipend or salary is a fantastic incentive to encourage more leaders to apply to join the MiddView team.”

MiddView leaders were not informed that they would be compensated until after their August orientation training period had begun, and they did not find out the amount they would be compensated until the last day of the training period. SAO told The Campus in September that this was because they had not wanted to announce the compensation plan until it was finalized.

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Orientation leaders also expressed that the stipend was framed poorly.

According to Asa Stone ’25, a MiddView leader, “It seemed like something that was almost like held over our heads.” Stonethat if leaders broke the rules of training week, they would not be allowed to continue as a leader and their stipend would be taken away.

Rules included missing training sessions or using substances during the substance free orientation period. 

“It was almost like an added pressure to be like, ‘we’re holding money over your heads so you really have to do a good job,’” Stone said.

MiddView orientation leaders were also expected to do more work than they had previously, which put more pressure on them, according to Stone.

“We’re on call the whole week because students can reach out to us whenever, and we are meeting with students and we were doing a lot that we didn’t know we would be doing during the week of MiddView,” Stone said.

Previously, MiddView leaders only spent a few days with their orientation groups, leading them on three-day trips that ranged from backpacking trips to community service work.

In September, when The Campus first reported on the introduction of the stipends, leaders expressed that, while they were grateful the college was taking steps to compensate orientation leaders, it was demoralizing that they were paid $300 for weeks of work. Students told The Campus that, broken down by total hours worked, the stipend amounted to less than four dollars an hour.

“There is a big disparity between what we’re getting paid and what we should be getting paid,” McCartney said.

Even with delays and continued frustrations regarding the stipends, some leaders said they would serve as orientation leaders again. Daniel Ramírez ’24 served as a First@Midd leader this fall. While waiting for the stipend has been frustrating, Ramírez said leading orientation was a good experience.

“We care about these students,” Ramírez said. “We see a lot of ourselves in them. So all the leaders came with good vibes, which is why I would do it again.”

Sabrina Salam

Sabrina Salam '24 (she/her) is a Copy Editor.

She previously served as a Staff Writer. Sabrina spent this past spring semester studying abroad in Spain. This summer she interned as a Legal Intern at Verizon's headquarter in New Jersey.

Sabrina is studying International & Global Studies with a focus in Global Security. She is also a Peer Career Advisor at the Center for Careers and Internships and a DJ for WRMC Middlebury College Radio.