The Misguided Expectations of UCSB Clerical Staff


Michelle Nuñez Alvarez

My parents instilled in me that if you’re not satisfied with something in your life, fight to make it better. Yes, all people should make a living wage, but one should not expect a living wage from clerical work.

For those who don’t know what clerical work is, a simple Google search categorizes it as a job that typically requires a minimum degree of a high school diploma, where duties include record keeping, appointment scheduling, photocopying and filing. Basically, not things you’d want to be doing for the rest of your life (at least, I hope) and 40 hours a week, give or take.

Laurence Young from the Santa Barbara Independent claims in his op-ed that 98.6 percent of UCSB clerical workers, in particular library assistants, cannot afford to support themselves, earning on average $34,596.63 a year. Agreeably, that is not a living wage in the Santa Barbara/Goleta area. Therefore, if an individual understands that their wages are not correspondent with their degree and/or skill sets, it should serve as a motive to find a job or career that will.

When my parents first came to the United States, their skills were limited only to work in the service industry due to their lack of education and limited English. The types of jobs they were able to have were washing dishes and operating a cash register. With the ambition to achieve the American Dream and make a living wage, my parents assessed their developed skills into something challenging. With time and dedication, my stepdad, the only one who brings the bacon home, now works as an auto mechanic who specializes in imported vehicles and comfortably supports a family of six in the Silicon Valley.

Young’s commenters brought up the point that if you cannot afford to live in a certain area, you should just move. While not a bad idea, I certainly would hate my life if I went from living in beautiful California to some affordable fly-over state (no offense). People live where they live because that’s simply where they want to be, and that’s not wrong. Except to state that one is simply not making enough to live where they wish to be, they should instead, as my parents put it, “do something about it.”

In this day and age, a college degree is crucial to survive as the demand for a degree is now a basic requirement in most well-paying fields. Luckily, there are resources to help anyone in the United States willing and able to make the effort in bettering their circumstance. With the help of FAFSA and, admittedly, undesirable loans, the chance is there. Resorting to a clerical career, wages will be on average below the living wage (maybe unless you work for Dj Khaled). Clerical work should be seen as a job where one could develop his or her organization, communication and critical thinking skills. Understandably, finding a job after college can certainly be difficult, but clerical work should be seen as temporary, a pit stop on the way to achieving a higher (and of course financially) fulfilling job or career.

The idea is not to get comfortable. The idea is not to settle.


  1. Your comments show how little you understand the amount of work that is done by clerical staff at UCSB. Not only does UCSB demand a college degree for clerical work but clerical employees handle payroll, travel, accrual, hiring and most of the work is well beyond the dictionary definition of what clerical work is. Mindless dribble of the self satisfied and those lack perspective or real understanding of the issues.

  2. The author is a naive college student who thinks she is entitled to high paying jobs once she graduates from UCSB because she will have a “degree”. What she fails to realize now (and will learn the hard way) is that the number of college graduates are rising and the job pool is shrinking. Even people with degrees won’t qualify to do “clerical” work because employers look for people with actual work experience to fill these “clerical” jobs. But she has the whole world figured out because she took into to econ and it opened her eyes. She will continue to apply for those undesirable loans because the idea is not to settle.

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