Fourteen Famuan staff members received paychecks Feb. 20, while the 12 remaining workers wait for checks that have been signed and released by Interim President Castell V. Bryant. The action quickly came after all but four of the newspaper’s staff walked off the job Sunday evening, and the remaining members released a special “Strike Edition” of Monday’s paper.
In a Famuan staff meeting held Monday evening, James D. Hawkins, dean of the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication, along with Student Body President Phillip B. Agnew, affirmed that an on-demand request had been made to issue the students workers their overdue pay.
“He (James Yarborough and Jacqueline Steed of human resources) told me that on-demand checks will be ready Wednesday or Thursday,” Hawkins said.
Jacqueline Steed, associate director of payroll, said the signed requests would indeed provide the workers their pay on or by the dates stated.
“I have 19 requests on hand, and that is not to say that some were not done earlier,” she said.
In the meeting Agnew, 21, from Chicago, explained to the upset students that the on-demand request would guarantee them their money before March 2, which is their next scheduled payday.
Agnew stood for nearly an hour and answered a fleet of questions asked by the disgruntled newspaper staff. Journalism professor Valerie White asked where the breakdown occurred.
“It’s not the fault of any individual department,” Agnew answered.
Agnew explained there have been issues with the University’s OPS, Other Personnel Services, budget stemming from last semester.
“The budget is like a staff pay pool,” he said. “The fall OPS was in the red and no one took responsibility.”
Agnew suggested that because of the over-exhausting of funds last semester, The Famuan staff members, adjunct instructors and other student workers around campus have not received their pay in a timely manner this semester.
“The budget says there’s no more money in the pot,” Agnew said. “The options left are to move money through budget transfers or mass firings.”
Agnew said there were other possible conflicts that may have led to employees not being paid.
“In some cases, paperwork was not completed,” he said. “The University also switched over its payroll system, which should be up and running now.”
He explained that neither the University president nor the Board of Trustees is to blame for the various payroll issues springing up around campus.
“The Board of Trustees is not responsible for the day-to-day activity of the University,” said Agnew, who is also a trustee, “and it is in no way Dr. Bryant’s fault.”
He said, “Dr. Bryant is responsible for the University as a whole, but this specific payroll issue was caused by specific departments, which I can’t mention, on campus.”
Following the meeting, Kamaria Hopkins, 20, a public relations student from Petersburg, Va., and deputy copy desk chief for The Famuan said, “I feel like I trust what he said. I trust that our money is going to be here, but if it is not here on Thursday, something different will have to take place. Something will have to change.”
Agnew said students “should be as sure about getting paid as they are that they turned in all their pay sheets.”He said there is always a chain of command when dealing with situations like this.
“If the checks are not in by Thursday, students should go to their advisers and dean, and then contact student government.” For other employees affected, Agnew said, “At the end of the day, student government and The Famuan are here for the students.”