The college has agreed to compensate three Spanish Fulbright Language Teaching Assistants (FLTA) with room and board for the remote semesters of the 2020-2021 academic year, following a petition the three sent the administration last Wednesday requesting the payment.
The petition, which had received over 400 signatures from students and other community members before it was sent, noted that the Fulbright program stipulates that FLTAs receive a financial award covering room and board, as well as daily living expenses. In omitting credit for room and board from the FLTAs’ compensation package last year when they had to work remotely, the college failed to make good on its contractual obligation, the petition argued.
Two of the petition’s authors — Emilia Farias Ferreira and Johann Kevin Mafla Orjuela — requested to be compensated with the full $15,910 representing room and board for the 2021-2022 academic year, while the last author, Carlos Pech Guzmán, asked for $7,955, since he had been on campus in Spring 2021 and thus been credited with room and board for that semester.
In a statement made to The Student on Tuesday, April 5, Provost and Dean of the Faculty Catherine Epstein reported that she has made the decision to grant the three FLTAs’ requests.
“Although the College was clear in its appointment agreements with the language assistants that they would not receive funds for room and board, I have been made aware of additional documents from Fulbright that may have confused the issue for them,” wrote Epstein. “In light of this confusion, and in recognition of our language assistants’ fine work, I have decided that we will provide them an additional stipend representing room and board for the 2020-21 academic year for the time that they were working remotely.”
Ferreira, Orjuela, and Guzmán told The Student that Epstein notified them of her decision on Monday night, after they had met with her last Friday to discuss their petition.
“We were so happy about it,” said Ferreira.
She went on to express gratitude for everyone who signed and supported the petition. “All of the students that signed the petition were on our side, and I think that helped,” she said. “Because without that, I don’t think the college would be so willing to meet up and talk about our needs.”
“It goes to show that when the community bands together to a common goal, we can get there,” Ferreira added.
Orjuela said they were also grateful for the support they’ve received from the Spanish Department throughout their time at the college, with Ferreira noting that “they did their best to give us everything that they could.”
The meeting with Epstein also provided an opportunity to talk about their broader experiences and challenges as FLTAs at the college, said Guzmán, beyond just the financial troubles that last year’s reduced compensation had brought.
“She was very open to discussion and she was very understanding of everything that was going on,” added Ferreira. “In the meeting, she asked us personal questions, and she was very willing to adapt the program to improve it and make it better for other Fulbrighters that may come here.”