Students Allege Poor Working Conditions at UCSB’s Annual Fund

Photo Courtesy of UCSB

Alexandra Wishowski

Isla Vista Beat Reporter

From donating estates to academic departments to establishing research programs for students and faculty, UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) alumni and families have gifted donations that are valuable to current and future students, staff, and faculty.

Many of these improvements are made possible by UCSB’s Annual Fund through the Office of Development, which collects donations to a general fund for the campus, needs or allows donors to choose a specific cause. 

“These annual unrestricted gifts sustain every part of the UCSB experience including students’ well-being, instruction, research, and innovation,” the Office of Development website reads. “The Annual Fund also supports classrooms and labs, tutoring, the arts, and the breathtaking campus that we call home.”

While donations are essential to maintaining the campus and funding programs, several student workers at the Annual Fund have complained about the high-pressure and uncomfortable working conditions. Employees have taken their complaints to social media, posting in Reddit threads spanning from nine years ago to just over a week ago.

The most recent Reddit post, which labels the Annual Fund as a “cult” details how the Annual Fund exploits students in need of on-campus employment. The organization is also accused of exploiting alumni before they’ve had the chance to find success with their degree through the Senior Class Gift, which “is an opportunity for graduating Gauchos to identify an area on campus to leave a lasting legacy.”

A fourth-year economics major, who asked to remain anonymous, detailed their experience working as a student caller for the Annual Fund over the summer of 2018 in an interview with The Bottom Line. 

“The senior class gift we had was a donation to the sexual assault survivor fund so a lot of students we called felt like we were guilt-tripping them or holding sexual assault over them,” said the student. 

“I also felt really bad while on the phone with older parents or people who didn’t speak English too well,” the student continued. “I sort of felt like I was swindling them and setting a precedent for them to give credit card information over the phone, which under regular circumstances I hope they never do.”

“While donations are essential to maintaining the campus and funding programs, several student workers at the Annual Fund have complained about the high-pressure and uncomfortable working conditions.”

While most on-campus jobs for students are based on hourly pay, the Annual Fund is reportedly one of the few organizations at UCSB that pays student employees based on performance-based rates, which are calculated based on the amount of credit card donations solicited from donors. 

Although monthly donation pledge cards are an option, the anonymous student recounted that there is more pressure placed on workers to secure a donation through a credit card payment because “it’s money on the spot.” 

Performance-based pay usually results in a number of top-performing employees coming out on top, while other employees feel the pressure to catch up. Many research studies have shown that this type of compensation may make employees work harder, but it can also lead to high stress and low job satisfaction

However, the anonymous former student employee for the Annual Fund was not reprimanded by supervisors, despite not performing well in the workplace: “The student managers I had were really nice.”

“It’s the job that the university asks us to do that’s honestly terrible,” the student added.

Another major factor that puts further strain on student callers is that many recent UCSB graduates are not able to contribute to the Senior Class Gift due to owing thousands of dollars in student loans. Since there is only a six-month grace period for payments following graduation, this gives alumni little time to pay off a reasonable amount of their balances before considering a donation. 

The U.S. News College Compass page for UCSB indicates that the average student loan debt for graduating students in 2019 was $18,995, with 51 percent of students in the 2019 graduating class borrowing any type of loan. 

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard indicates that the typical 10-year payment plan for student loans at UCSB ranges from $124 to $210 per month. 

UCSB’s Annual Fund did not reply to requests for comment.