Working Limits


I gotta go- my work hours are almost up. Can we picture-lock on Thursday instead?

I gotta go- my work hours are almost up.

Today was training day. In the morning I had training to become a Student Assistant (the Cinema School’s name for “Teaching Assistant”) followed by Projection Booth training followed by Sound Assistant training (since I will be assisting a sound professor this semester). Some of it was information that I was already familiar with, but it was useful to get a refresher. Some of it was new. Some of it I learned several times during the day: I went from not knowing what an “AMX Panel” was to knowing how to use it in at least four different classroom environments each with it’s own unique twist.

All in all it was a good day, but there was one topic that came up that stuck in mind: working hours. Since these assistance-ships are actually a form of work-study financial aid, they come with very specific limits on work hours: twenty hours per week to be exact. And they plan to be very exact on this indeed.

The limit has always been twenty hours per week: the philosophy being that we are students first and workers second so our working hours should be limited to part-time quantities. This makes perfect sense to me. A student can even work several different jobs on campus as long as the work hours adhere to this limit. This would work great if we were in a nice normal work environment like an office or a campus center with regular daily hours spread out evenly through the week and through the semester. But we aren’t in a nice normal environment: we’re in film school. Film, like theatre, is a show-must-go-on kind of business: when you are running up against a deadline you just work until the work is done, not until the whistle blows.

Until this current semester the school has been reasonably understanding of this ebb and flow of production related working hours, but now the limits are going to be strictly enforced. Why? Because of the Affordable Care Act. Because having students work more than part-time hour limits will push the University into a grey area of do-they-need-to-provide-health-insurance-benefits-for-greater-than-part-time-workers: murky waters that the University wishes to avoid wading into.

What does this mean? Difficult to say: I haven’t tried it yet. Will students like me just continue to work until the work is done even if it means clocking out and working for free? Will students like me resort to creative time-sheet accounting to spread out hours from busy weeks to fit into quieter ones? Will students like me decide to only work in the hours that we are given and blow off any other work that needs to be done?

Like I say, I don’t know- I haven’t tried it yet.

What I do find frustrating- and potentially discouraging- is that this strict hour limit puts a glass ceiling on student workers. By and large we are a committed and energetic bunch who would probably work our little fingers down to shiny bone nubbins if it was something film related. But if it’s a choice between doing a great, thorough job in twenty one hours or doing a rushed, mediocre job in twenty hours there’s going to be a lot less incentive to take the time to do things right.

That said, it’s not a problem until it is a problem, so I won’t worry about it now.

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on January 9, 2015.

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