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Master's in Mopping

By Nick Zeckets
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
April 26, 2000
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Last week, a plan was proposed by the Women's Studies department that would allow classified staff to take a six-week sabbatical. The leave would allow time for gaining course credits and attending conferences or seminars in employees' respective fields while continuing to be paid. This plan is laughable, as sabbaticals are designed to afford professors the opportunity to work on projects that bring respect to the university, not to allow classified staff to gain filing or mopping expertise.

Programming coordinator from the Social and Behavioral Sciences college, Jennifer Aviles, said that "Classified staff are feeling burnt out (and) disadvantaged, and deeply desire opportunities to better themselves, both professionally and personally." However, classified staff are allowed to take two courses per semester at an amazing discount. Taking six weeks off would only cover one-third of a semester anyway. What then - get A's for six weeks and then not attend class anymore?

Let's get a few things straight. First, classified staff include janitors, secretaries and similar employees. Secondly, sabbaticals, according to the Cambridge International Dictionary, are "a period of time when college or university teachers are allowed to stop their usual work in order to study or travel, usually while continuing to be paid." Teachers have reason to take time off to study, and that time can also benefit the university. Impressive projects and studies reflect well on a research university like the University of Arizona.

What will a classified staff's sabbatical bring the university? Perhaps janitors in Honduras have devised a new style of mopping. Maybe paper pushers in Australia are gaining respect for their layering of red tape. Better yet, personal assistants in Russia may have perfected office coffee-making procedures.

Don't get me wrong, the work our classified staff does is valuable and necessary, but there is nothing this school could possibly gain by giving them six weeks paid leave. If they want more vacation time, that's what they should ask for. Just don't expect to get paid for it. Hell, give me six weeks off this summer from the Wildcat and give me money! At least this job is academic and offers valid seminars and conferences.

Pima Community College and the UA both offer a slew of nighttime and weekend courses in every discipline. Thousands of current students are employed full-time and still manage to take classes. Law school students are the best example. Many students at James E. Rogers have to hold full-time jobs to defray the overwhelming costs of attendance, yet still manage to graduate with J.D.s in three years.

Beyond the right of classified staff to go to school, the UA has little reason to want them to. Secretaries learn systems - how their bosses work, what kind of organizational techniques are best. Once that person leaves, there is a lag time when the replacement has to learn all those things over again. As soon as a classified staff member gets a degree, they're off like a prom dress. No one is going to stay at a job laden with boring, menial tasks when they could work in a more exciting or challenging field.

Giving time off for "personal" betterment also means an additional incursion of debt by the UA, as temps will have to be hired. Those temps don't know the systems and don't have the time to learn them before the given classified staff returns from sabbatical. Whether a replacement is found or not, operations will slow and cause a paper back up. Spokesperson Pat Hnilo even admitted that "If we replaced that person, we'd have to come up with a figure of what it would take to replace that person." They don't even know the costs of a plan like this. There are 5,500 classified staffers, each earning during that six-week sabbatical approximately $2000. Hey, Pat, it's a whole pile of cash.

Classified staffers don't need sabbaticals and the UA shouldn't give it to them. The costs will eventually be pushed on the students, both economically and organizationally. You'll never get through to your departments or advisors and money will be sucked down like the super Hoover on SpaceBalls. Sabbaticals are for the professors, vacations are for the classified staffers.

Nick Zeckets is a political science and near eastern studies sophomore. He can be reached at Nick.Zeckets@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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