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Morgan reevaluates payment system following RA strike

Photo credit: Edwin Moore

After many MSU resident assistants went on strike in light of their weeks-delayed payments, university administration searches for solutions to an inefficient payment system.

Elijah Pittman, Contributing Writer with The MSU Spokesman

Laila Norwood, a resident assistant at the new Thurgood Marshall Hall, wasn’t sure what to do after her payment for one month of work was delayed for weeks.

“Because I do pay my own tuition, I have to wait for the money to come, to put it towards my bill. It’s keeping me back because I have to wait on it,” said Norwood.

Norwood was not alone. Over 100 other RAs working at housing complexes on and off campus, were not paid for their work for the month of September.

The delayed payments influenced many RAs to stage a strike. The assistants refused to report for desk duty, conduct room checks, and perform lockouts for four days until they were paid for their work.

At the time of the strike, many freshmen were in the process of moving into the Lord Baltimore Hotel located 20 minutes away from campus.

“It was a little touchy situation there because you have 115 staff members and they’re saying they’re not going to work, that’s not a good situation,” said Kevin Banks, vice president of student affairs.

In late September, Morgan’s housing administration agreed to give RAs an advance of 60 percent to 70 percent of their paycheck between Oct. 5 and Oct. 8, with the rest of the paycheck promised for Oct. 15.

In a town hall on Oct. 20, President Wilson said he personally covered grocery items for 25 of the 115 unpaid RAs.

Additionally, a $500 stipend was issued by the university to students who were unable to receive the advance due to issues in W-4 form processing.

Blake Mabion, a resident assistant at O’Connell Hall, found the form submission process during onboarding to be an instrumental fault in the payment delay.

“I was a peer mentor over the summer, so I recognize how the pay works. It takes a while for the payment file to be submitted to payroll from HR,” said Mabion, who also explained that the deadline to submit forms and the first pay date were too close to receiving the stipends.

Banks said the university plans to include the submission of payment forms, like the W-4, in the onboarding process and explain the importance of completing those forms during employee orientation. 

Banks said that the Office of Residence Life and Housing is considering offering room and board credits to RAs instead of the stipends Morgan pays.

For the more distant future, Banks says that the Office of Residence Life and Housing will “look at other schools whose RAs get a room and board credit,” to try and implement a similar model to pay RAs.