Citing program’s wage system, resident fellows refuse to hire PHEs for next year

April 20, 2016, 12:08 a.m.

Several freshmen dorms’ resident fellows have expressed disapproval of the Peer Health Educators (PHEs) program’s wage system by refusing to hire PHEs for their dorms next year. Starting next year, Arroyo, Cedro, FroSoCo, Junipero, Larkin and Twain will no longer have PHEs.

Several Wilbur resident fellows (RFs) learned that Trancos RFs broke the mold by not hiring a PHE this previous year and will continue to not have one in the future. According to Junipero (JRo) RF Ari Kelman, many of the RFs then considered the idea of also removing the PHE position from their dorm staff as a way to equalize salary.

“Our PHEs have always worked really hard,” Kelman said. “We felt badly about supporting a program that was so unfair and so other RFs and I talked about [not having PHEs].”

The new PHE-less pilot program is part of a broader movement, along with the PHE petition circulating since last quarter calling for equal pay for PHEs and other staff members. Currently, PHEs earn $1,000 for a year of service whereas resident assistants (RAs) earn $10,000 and resident computer consultants earn $7,000.

“I’ve told every PHE we’ve had, ‘You should go on strike. They’re not going to listen to me. Take some actions.’” Kelman said. “And this year, they have the petition. These are very small actions, but also very time consuming actions for students.”

The petition has received over 1,700 signatures, with many students leaving positive comments about their experiences with their PHEs.

Tina Miller, a petition signer and PHE from 2012 to 2013, wrote, “I’m remembering the breakdown on my first payment sheet and staring at a $0.10/hr attached to the check, and just being totally bewildered at how absurd and (illegal) [sic] and dehumanizing that was.”

PHEs are paid and trained through Vaden whereas RAs fall under the jurisdiction of Residential Education (ResEd). PHE budget increases are submitted to be reviewed yearly, but it has been historically rejected every year, according to Arroyo PHE Alka Nath ’16. PHEs and RAs are both tasked with taking care of residents’ well-being. However, many students now consider their PHE to be the sole go-to person for all health-related issues, Nath said.

“I’m marketed as the person to go to for mental health, sexual health, emotional health, pretty much all health things,” Nath said. “What else is there? I don’t have a door key to unlock the doors. We try to portray ourselves as equal, but because I’m marketed as this person to go to for X things, people come to me for things that they could also talk to RAs.”

Vaden and ResEd are currently in discussion to find a solution for the PHE-less dorms next year, according to an email to The Daily from Joy Leighton, Director of Communications and Web Strategy at Student Affairs. However, no action has been proposed for increasing PHE salaries.

“We are working to provide an additional staffing presence for some of the houses who did not place with a PHE this year,” Leighton wrote. “Every year, there are circumstances in which a house that typically has a PHE ends up without one. We work with each of these houses to make sure that the staff are fully equipped to respond to and support their students needs.”

Some people have suggested to allow ResEd to take over the PHE program as well in order to provide PHEs with higher pay. However, Vaden currently oversees the PHE training program including a four-unit spring class. Some PHEs fear that ResEd will not provide the same comprehensive training if the two programs are consolidated.

“I’m opposed to [ResEd taking over the PHE program] because it would mean ResEd will be responsible for programming and training,” JRo PHE Ines Gerard-Ursin ’16 said. “They approach training as crisis prevention instead of overall wellness. PHEs are more focused on overall wellness in the community rather than certain situations and capturing them at the end.”

For now, the PHE-less dorms will proceed by hiring an additional RA on staff. By boycotting the PHE program, the RFs hope Vaden will take notice, according to Kelman.

“So one of three things will happen,” Kelman said. “[The boycott] will make no difference. JRo will go its merry way, and Vaden will go its merry way. Option number two is it will put pressure on Vaden and if they want to retain the PHE program, they will make some changes. Option three is everything goes under ResEd.”


Contact Ariel Liu at aliu15 ‘at’

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