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ETAs call for pay equity

Julia Ingram / The Stanford Daily

A group of Ethnic Theme Associates (ETA) from Casa Zapata, Okada and Ujamaa are petitioning for higher wages that match the compensation received by Resident Assistants (RA). The petition has received 527 signatures as of Wednesday evening.

The role of ETAs includes advancing their dorm themes and supporting diversity education, according to Residential Education (ResEd). ETAs are responsible for theme programming, bringing speakers to campus and taking care of residents’ emotional needs.

Although ResEd pays ETAs $4,200 per year, it pays $11,822.25 per year to RAs, who “are expected to: attend and participate in regular house team meetings; work collaboratively as an entire team on community development and problem solving; and practice interpersonal skills associated with conducting difficult but tactful conversations, as well as giving and receiving feedback,” according to a ResEd webpage.

However, current and former ETAs have claimed that their work extends far beyond what is expected from them on paper.

“ETAs play nearly every role that an RA plays,” said Okada ETA Edwin Carlos ’20. “Residents do not distinguish which staff member they go to for emotional support, and in addition to having conversation relating to race and ethnicity and politics, ETAs are expected to be that [source of] support for residents.”

Former Okada ETA Ian Macato ’19, who is now a Residential Computer Consultant (RCC) in Trancos, echoed Carlos’s sentiment.

“[As ETAs], we’re doing the best for the dorm holistically, and often times we’ll have to take up work collaborating with other staff members,” he said. “We wanted to ensure that if we are to fulfill these roles, such as the logistical work of planning events and taking on other roles not in our job description, then we should be paid accurately for the work we’re doing.”

The University — not ResEd — awards each RCC with a stipend that ranges from $1,681 to $3,067, depending on the RCC’s assigned dorm.

The petition, which asks participants to indicate whether they believe ETAs should be paid more than their current salary, argues that the pay disparity is indicative of Stanford’s attitude toward students of color.

“This discrepancy in pay is proof that Stanford does not value the labor of students of color as much as it values other Residential Education staff roles,” read an email that circulated the petition.

The campaign to balance pay between ETAs and other ResEd student staff members began in 2016 as part of the Who’s Teaching Us campaign’s efforts to advocate for education diversity.

“I think [Who’s Teaching Us] provides a lot of context [about this] campaign and why we’re advocating for ETA pay equity specifically,” Macato said.

“Last year, I met with several administrators to work on increasing ETA pay,” he added. “We were able to start additional conversations about pay equity, particularly within ResEd as a whole.”

These administrators included those who were a part of a ResEd working group that was led by former Vice Provost for Student Affairs Greg Boardman, who preceded current Vice Provost Susie Brubaker-Cole. This group issued a statement to ETAs that assured them of the University’s “sincere commitment for collaborative engagement [to] address these issues.”

This year’s petition marks a revival of the campaign, which coincides with the University’s Long-Range Planning efforts to reshape residential life at Stanford through the ResX task force. According to Carlos, ETAs from Okada, Casa Zapata and Ujamaa have been meeting with the task force to discuss the pay gap.

“We told them we wanted the University to show that it truly values diversity and the labor of its students of color by paying ETAs equitably,” Carlos said.

According to Brubaker-Cole, the ResX task force is taking into consideration the demands presented by the ETAs.

“We in ResX have heard extensively about staff pay equity issues,” said Brubaker-Cole, adding that Student Affairs has established a subcommittee within ResX to address staffing issues, including the ETA pay disparity.

“What I’ve heard in interacting with students who are in those roles currently confirms … that residences in the dorms don’t discern across staff roles,” she said. “They see a staff person and they identify or feel close to that staff person and want to share their concerns with that staff person…and that they’re doing the work fully of what we view RA work to be, and it’s unfair that [they’re] not being paid equitably.”

Macato added that ETAs have faced increasing emotional demands as racial divisions in national and world news have impacted students.

“The ethnic programming — that is difficult work particularly [in] the past couple years with a lot the racial divisions and racial issues that have been coming up in the news and in the world,” he said.

In light of this, Macato is eager to move the campaign forward.

“I built on a lot of work that ETAs in the past had done,” he said. “I, along with other ETAs last year, wanted to increase [ETA salary] so that it was more aligned with the emotional, logistical and thematic work we were doing.”

This article has been corrected to reflect that ETAs from Okada, Casa Zapata and Ujamaa have been meeting with the ResX task force, not just Carlos and Macato. The Daily regrets this error.

Contact Karen Kurosawa at karen16 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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