By Amethyst Martinez
IN what Rider’s chief financial officer described as a “perfect storm” at the disbursements office this semester, the university is looking to change its payroll software for students after hundreds were affected by ADP’s system, causing employees to receive late paychecks, some delayed by months. Other student workers have received no pay since the start of the fall semester.
Students were met with an email notification just before 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 26 from CFO James Hartman, who began the notice by apologizing to students affected by the payroll system’s shortcomings this semester.
The email, which was sent a day after The Rider News published an editorial outlining how some students affected by ADP’s system have not been paid in months, offered a short-term solution for catching up on their paychecks quickly.
The email pointed employees to a QR code which linked to a survey for students to fill out, and asked that all unpaid time be submitted by Halloween night at 11:59 p.m. As of Oct. 31, more than 170 students reported unpaid hours, according to survey information circulated to supervisors.
Hartman also urged employees not to send any more paper timesheets via email for their backpay, a solution once offered to students who were missing money.
The email stated, “[the survey] will allow us to easily track all unpaid requests, and get as many paid as possible by Friday November 10th.”
In an interview with The Rider News following the email, Hartman said that currently, the university employs close to 1,000 students, and payroll issues have been “pretty much across the board.”
“I would describe this as sort of like a perfect storm of stuff,” said Hartman.
Some of the reasonings behind the issues faced on ADP’s interface include: students who work two on-campus jobs unable to get their time approved by multiple supervisors, an issue with contracts that required disbursements to adjust every single one manually (which Hartman said included over 900 contracts for student workers) and a small payroll department to begin with.
After a multitude of employees have departed from the university over the past few months, two jobs, controller and payroll manager, have opened up in the past few weeks. The former university controller, Jim Strauss, who oversaw general accounting at the university, has left for a CFO position at another institution, and Angela Palumbo, payroll manager, is set to leave the university on Nov. 3 after resigning.
Hartman said that although the controller position being open shouldn’t affect payroll operations much, with Palumbo’s resignation, the disbursements office is now down to two individuals to handle hundreds of issues within the current system.
A year of struggles
Prior to the implementation of ADP last August, all timesheets were input manually by the payroll department for students.
Along with student issues, supervisors have also experienced major difficulties with the platform.
In an article by The Rider News in October 2022, Kristine Brown, associate vice president for university marketing and communications, attributed the move to ADP as an effort to increase efficiencies, reduce costs and improve service to employees.
In an interview with The Rider News on October 30, 2023 Hartman said the reasoning behind the move was to put everyone into the same platform instead of separate ones for staffers and student-workers.
Since the implementation in August 2022, students, especially those who work more than one on-campus job due to multiple supervisors having to approve their timesheet, have faced serious issues with the system over the past year.
“From the time we rolled it out… [ADP has]been working with us to try and make it work, try and make it work,” said Hartman. “And it just didn’t.”
On behalf of the university, Brown said, “This has been an unfortunate situation that many people have been working to rectify. Progress has been made and we believe the new system will alleviate future problems.”
A new payroll system for students
With these issues, however, Hartman described a “light at the end of the tunnel.” He said Banner Web Time Entry, a payroll service owned by Ellucian, has been going through a test period for certain groups of student employees and is expected to be implemented next week for the entire student body.
Naa’san Carr, Student Government Association President, is one of the students who were in a trial run of Banner WTE. He described ADP’s issues as “unacceptable,” but said he has faced no issues with the new interface, except for an instance where he turned in his timesheet and his supervisor wasn’t notified.
“I sent an email to payroll urging them to send a message out to the student body because…this is unacceptable,” said Carr.
He reiterated that SGA has been in talks with the university regarding the seriousness of students being unpaid, and said that what was needed from Rider was “more transparency.”
“We need a faster response to what we’ve been getting over the past few years,” said Carr.
Faculty and staff will remain on ADP, while all student-workers are making the switch.
Despite Carr’s position in SGA, he said that, although he hasn’t faced struggles from the missing paychecks himself, he recognizes the consequences possible for others, especially as Carr himself is a first generation college student.
“For most people, in most cases, not getting their paycheck is not making a payment on their tuition,” said Carr, who said he used to pay his tuition payments by working on-campus. “Students aren’t getting paid, and that affects the student experience as a whole…[If] you mess with people’s money, that’s not a good situation.”