Barnard administrators have retracted a threat of legal repercussions made last week toward bartenders who contact new clients outside of the formal job database, clarifying that the initial message was written erroneously.
Earlier this month, Barnard Bartending and Barnard Babysitting transitioned from being entirely student-run organizations to being overseen by the college, a move that caused confusion and concern among many of the affected student workers.
In an email sent to bartenders last week, Directory of Student Employment Services Cynthia Meekins warned that any students who contacted potential bartending clients directly instead of through Barnard’s formal job database could face legal action for using college resources for “personal gain.” The email was sent after SES learned that some bartenders had been using client information posted on JobX, the college’s student employment website, to reach out to potential clients by email.
However, in an interview with Spectator on Thursday, Dean of the College Avis Hinkson clarified that no legal action will be brought against students who have reached out to new clients outside of JobX and was written in error. She added that she was unsure how the original statement in Meekins’ email was not corrected before being sent to students.
Hinkson told Spectator that such behavior may have repercussions, per Barnard’s computer use policy prohibiting “use of computing facilities and resources to interfere with the work of another student, faculty member or College Official.” The policy lists removal of access to the computing network as one possible sanction.
For Raisa Alam, BC ’18, being mistakenly threatened with possible legal action was particularly frustrating.
“I just feel like that was really unfair of them to do, to threaten legal action on a bunch of poor college students just trying to make money and support themselves,” she said. “And to think that they couldn’t have taken more careful action before stating something so dire.”
Some students had allegedly told clients not to use JobX and to reach out to bartenders directly in the future, which Meekins described as off-putting for the clients and unfair to other bartenders. Katie Russell, BC ’18, said that in the past, clients would reach out to the managers, who would in turn distribute the jobs to bartenders.
“The agency used to not allow you to reach out to clients directly anyway, but since we had really amazing management it wasn’t an issue anyway. I never felt like I needed to be networking as a bartender,” Russell said.
To address the miscommunication caused by the email, Hinkson said SES held a meeting with bartenders last Monday.
“Upon further review and discussion, there was an error in the communication,” Hinkson said.
“It wasn’t just a matter of just retracting a statement, but also providing the bartenders the opportunity to ask questions about the ways in which the Student Employment office was working to provide bartending jobs moving forward.”
However, several bartenders said that neither SES nor Hinkson sent an email clarifying the misstatement after the meeting on Monday, leaving students who were unable to attend the meeting uninformed or left to find out about the clarification secondhand.
Alam said that she found out about the change to the policy after Spectator reached out to her for comment on Thursday evening.
“I think that [it] would have been a good thing to tell people; I think there’s a really big lack of communication here,” she said. “That’s something pretty important to clarify.”
Russell said she is optimistic that the bartenders and Barnard can establish a more transparent relationship, but that she is concerned that the college has yet to take any concrete steps to address bartenders’ concerns.
“They’ve been completely willing to listen to us, but then I’m not seeing a lot of changes in the structure,” she said.
Hinkson said that Barnard is looking forward to making sure that the bartenders have work opportunities and that SES has already worked to take action on some of the bartenders’ concerns.
“It’s really important that students are aware that we are committed to working with the clients, working to increase the number of clients we have so students have the opportunity to work and make income,” Hinkson said. “We hope that students who have any concerns with the process will be in communication with me or Director Meekins so we can work together to solve them.”