Students Still Wait To Receive Paychecks

Human resources office aware of glitches in new payroll system

Nearly a month after many students started having problems caused by the University’s new payroll system, dozens of student employees are still underpaid or entirely without paychecks.

A number of offices that employ students, however, report some of the payroll issues have begun to be resolved in the past week.

The payroll system—developed by Peoplesoft, Inc.—came about as part of the University-wide HR Project, which seeks to improve electronic systems for payroll, benefits processing, time collection and human resources processes.

But the new system also came with multiple glitches.

Hannah E. Wright ’06, who has been working as an intramural athletics referee since September, has yet to receive a single paycheck from the University.

She said that not getting paid has been a major hardship.

“They owe me almost $350,” she said. “I need [the] job to help pay for school.”

Marilyn D. Touborg, director of communications for Harvard’s Office of Human Resources (HR), said she was unaware of the full extent of the problem until a number of student employees called the HR hotline to report paycheck problems following an Oct. 16 Crimson article on the problems student were facing.

“We heard in volumes from people who are having issues,” Touborg said.

She said that getting people into the system, as well as entering their time-worked data, has posed problems for many offices.

Because student workers are temporary workers paid by the hour, they have been particularly affected by the changes in both policy and processing of temporary workers’ payroll data.

In addition to the new task of entering time sheets online into the Peoplesoft system, new University policy requires additional data on temporary workers be entered into the payroll system.

“People [processing payroll] are adjusting to an awful lot right now,” Touborg said.

The Student Employment Office (SEO) has been working in concert with the HR office and Peoplesoft consultants to solve the problems, said SEO Director Martha H. Homer.

“They have created a couple of teams of people who are experts at getting this data through the system,” she said. “We are planning to get everyone paid by the middle of this week.”

Homer said the office has been issuing off-cycle paychecks in order to get students compensated.

“We’re not free and clear yet, but I think we’re gaining ground,” she said.

But many students said they are frustrated and upset as they wait for paychecks or receive checks for less than their hourly wage.

Wright said that her supervisors have been helpful, but that no changes have come about.

“I know that the head refs have been trying really hard,” she said. “But apparently someone in payroll has not been trying as hard, because [the head referees] have been asking [about the paychecks] for three weeks.”

Head Official of the Harvard Intramural Program Jeffrey D. Kazen ’03 said he is very concerned about the problems the program has encountered in getting many of its referees paid.

“I’m starting to hear from refs that are saying ‘I won’t work until I start getting paid,’” he said. “I’m getting worried.”

Kazen estimates that 37 referees are owed money, 25 of whom are new employees of the program who have never been paid.

Between the 550 hours that he estimates have gone unpaid, and additional hours paid at too low a rate, he said the program owes its officials a total of $4,270.50.

Kazen said that Associate Director of Athletics John Wentzell is meeting with the HR office tomorrow to try to resolve the problem.

Meanwhile, other programs have achieved some success in getting students paid.

Robert F. Wolfreys, supervisor of the Dorm Crew program said that he has had problems getting students’ paychecks delivered, but that many of the problems have recently been solved.

“There were a number of problems many of which were taken care of the end of last week,” he said. “It’s much, much, better now.”

Still, Dorm Crew worker Walter S. Drisdell ’04 is missing approximately $80 of his pay.

“It hasn’t been a real problem yet. I have some savings from the summer, and eventually I’ll dip into that,” he said. “They’re telling me that eventually I’ll get paid.”

But for some students, the burden has been greater.

Elizabeth J. Quinn ’04, who has a work-study job at the Boston Medical Center, said she received her first paycheck a month late, for too little money and at one point was owed upwards of $400.

“As a financial aid recipient, I owe my parents $2,000,” she said. “It’s been hard because they really need the money”

No Pain, No Gain

The problems with the new Peoplesoft system have caused some to question whether the new system is worth the trouble it has caused.

“So far, it is clearly more hassle than it’s worth,” said Homer.

Touborg said that the new system may cause the reexamination of policies.

“There were people who were saying this may be too hard,” she said. “[Some are] questioning the time and labor system, and that may be something we need to talk about.”

But Peoplesoft Public Relations Manager Lisa C. Sion said she was unaware of any major problems.

“It’s a surprise,” she said. “I was not aware that there was an issue.”

She said that the Peoplesoft product may not be the source of the difficulties.

“With any system that has been implemented, there’s a lot of facets that go into the product, [including] who has implemented it...and how it has been implemented,” she said. “Obviously Peoplesoft has a strong commitment to higher ed. It is an extremely important industry to us...I feel confident that this will be resolved quickly.”

Whether or not this is an issue of getting the system running or its general use remains to be seen, said Touborg.

“It’s just too soon to know whether this is an initial problem or longer term,” she said.

Nonetheless, she said that some of these problems were expected.

“This is going to be hard and we have said so from the beginning...there’s a learning curve and brand new processes and systems that may not work as well as we had hoped.”

Staff writer David S. Hirsch can be reached at hirsch@fas.harvard.edu.