By Zoe Sayler
After concerns about unfair pay for Peer Health Educators (PHE) led some Resident Fellows (RFs) to refuse to hire PHEs last spring, funds have been secured to increase PHE pay for the 2017-2018 school year.
PHEs, who were previously given a stipend of $1,000 per year from Vaden, will receive a stipend of $3,075 from Vaden in the next school year, helping to bridge the gap between the compensation given to them and to fellow student staff. Resident Assistants (RAs) receive $10,000 from ResEd, while Resident Computer Consultants (RCCs) receive $7,000 from the Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning.
The push for “PHEquality” initially gained steam last year when a Change.org petition calling for equal pay for PHEs received over 1,700 signatures, citing low pay as a “financial barrier to diverse, qualified students” who might otherwise have taken interest in the position. Trancos Hall RFs had already refused to hire PHEs for the 2015-2016 school year and RFs of other freshman dorms followed suit this year, choosing instead to hire an additional RA to combat what many saw as unfair pay.
“The residents generally don’t distinguish between PHEs and RAs or RCCs when they are looking for someone to talk to, and we felt that the pay disparity did not reflect the work of PHEs with respect to either quantity or quality,” said Junipero RF Ari Kelman. “So, we thought this was the best way to register our displeasure.”
Former West Lagunita PHE Lacey Wickersham ’17 agreed that the pay disparity does not reflect the range of duties that PHEs perform.
“It is impossible to count the hours for anyone, because how do you quantify the extra time spent bonding over dinner, or the time you have your door open, or the inevitable nights you are woken up by someone who just needs to talk?” Wickersham commented. “My point is everyone does a lot, and we just know that PHEs are worth more than they were given credit for.”
PHEs also receive extensive specialized training through a required four-unit, letter-graded class in the spring before staffing that hones in on issues ranging from mental health to campus drug culture to first aid. In comparison, RAs take a required two-unit credit/no-credit class with more of a leadership focus, while RCCs can take or waive a two-unit credit/no-credit course specific to computer consulting.
Next year’s stipend is an important step toward securing fair pay for PHEs, but the ultimate goal is a permanent increase, according to Wickersham.
“The pay raise that PHEs have received for next year is a small victory,” Wickersham said. “We are thankful to those [administrators] who made it go through, but it is only the first step.”
Hannah Levy ’18, the PHE in Toyon Hall’s, hopes that securing equal pay will ensure that the PHE position is seen as equal to other student staff positions in the future.
“It’s never been about the pay. It’s about the passion and recognition that this is important,” Levy said. “I have never been bitter about the pay, but [I am] hopeful and longing that this program will be recognized as worthy.”
Contact Zoe Sayler at zoeneile ‘at’ stanford.edu.