Despite COVID, off-campus jobs must prevail

Gusties are minimizing contact with the outside world, but in the midst of it all, some students continue to work off-campus jobs. While this may first appear as an unnecessary risk, especially when there is work study available on-campus, it is not. In fact, it is a necessary and unavoidable risk and a rather small one at that.
Working an off-campus job is necessary for some students because it offers important benefits that a work study cannot. The most important one, of course, is a higher wage.
According to Junior Jack Milford, he began working as a delivery driver at Domino’s for this very reason.
“The school doesn’t pay enough. The school waits until the beginning of the month to pay you. I need something more consistent. I need something with hours. I need something with tips for additional income,” Milford said.
Better and more frequent pay is also a primary benefit for Sophomore Autumn Zierman, who works as a barista and shift lead at Diamond Dust in addition to her on-campus roles as a Writing Center tutor and staff writer for The Gustavian Weekly.
“My off-campus [job] has a much better income and a much steadier one. I get paid biweekly instead of monthly. I also get weekly tips that make it really easy to cover my expenses from week to week,” Zierman said.
In addition to getting paid more often, an off-campus job offers a level of community interaction that work study just can’t. This is essential for students who want to expand their social circles beyond just college students and professors.
“It definitely embeds me more into the fabric of the St. Peter community and makes St. Peter feel more like home than like a college town. I meet a lot more people that are diverse in age, income status, life experience, [and] interests,” Zierman said.

Finally, off-campus work serves as a mental break for students, who would normally spend 100 percent of their time on-campus.

Gusties live, eat, study, work, socialize and do just about everything else within the invisible walls of college life, shielded from the outside world. Not that our Gustauvs community isn’t great, but for some students, having an activity off campus to look forward to, even if it is work, can be a necessary breath of fresh air.
“It’s independent of school, which makes the world feel as big as it should be rather than make my entire existence be about college,” Zierman said.
Off-campus jobs offer students significant and necessary benefits as an alternative to work study. In the COVID era, they do come with some risk of exposure, as does any other activity that involves other people, but that risk is not so big as to merit asking these students to stop work. For one thing, protective measures can be and are being taken by the individual students to protect themselves from exposure.
“I would just wear my mask and wash my hands all the time,” Milford said.
For another thing, the employers themselves are taking drastic safety measures in order to limit the spread of COVID. After all, it is in their best interest to avoid an outbreak so that their business can stay open and their employees can stay healthy. Domino’s, for example, uses no-contact deliveries to reduce driver-to-customer contact, and according to Zierman, similar safety measures are in play at Diamond Dust.
“Everytime a new person comes in and uses our Point of Sales, I sanitize it. I also sanitize all the tables. I wear masks at work all day. We use protective gloves whenever we’re handling food items that people then take out. We have weekly check-ins on health status,” Zierman said.
In fact, due to employers’ strict adherence to COVID guidelines, working off-campus is much safer than most other off-campus activities that students participate in, such as going home over the weekend, hanging out in Mankato, or attending parties. These activities warrant much more human-to-human contact than would leaving a box of pizza on someone’s doorstep or serving a customer from behind a coffee-shop counter.
“We have regular inspections at our place of work by CDC representatives and FDA representatives to make sure that we’re following all the codes of conduct that have been set forth by the state of Minnesota, so it is far, far more likely that somebody who goes off campus to party or who travels around a lot or every weekend will bring COVID back to campus than it is that I will,” Zierman said.

Even if the risk wasn’t so small, the fact is that nobody can just tell students they can’t work off-campus.

After all, it’s not as if it’s a choice. It’s a necessity. It’s for income. We might be living through a pandemic, but that doesn’t freeze these students’ expenses, and work study simply isn’t enough.
“The school just doesn’t pay enough. They accommodate as much as they can, but I need money not just for [school] because I’m completely self-sufficient. I just live off myself,” Milford said.
Perhaps working off-campus is a risk, but it’s a small one and a necessary one. Besides, who are we to tell these students that they can’t make money.


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