As the University goes paperless, some employees are left behind

The University gives out fewer paper paychecks and job applications.

by Hailey Colwell

University of Minnesota custodian Michael Revier has brought a paper paycheck to the bank for the last 37 years.

“I like handling it,” he said. “I like going to the bank and depositing it. It’s something I’ve done for years, and I don’t find it to be inconvenient.”

In the coming academic year, the University will ramp up its use of electronic employment methods like direct deposit and online job applications. Some employees, like Revier, are apprehensive about the move.

The University is looking into moving away from paper checks in favor of direct deposit, but it’s legally obligated to allow employees to receive paper checks for the time being.

Though fewer of his co-workers receive paper checks than in the past, Revier said, the University shouldn’t be able to determine employee payment methods.

“It’s something that should be left to the employee to decide,” he said.

University Addressing and Mailing Services sends about 7,000 paper checks and pay statements every two weeks, much less than in the past, said mailing office specialist Chris Lahren.

Nearly 23,000 employees worked on the University’s Twin Cities campus in 2012, according to the Office of Institutional Research.

Still, Lahren said, he knows a lot of employees who aren’t computer savvy and like to get a physical copy of their check.

“There should always be at least an option,” he said.

But some employees aren’t worried about the increase in direct deposits.

Office of Information Technology executive accounts specialist Lee Ann Afdjeie said she prefers direct deposit because it reduces the number of errands she has to run.

“I’m not going to go sit in the bank line,” she said. “I trust a computer, and I don’t have any problems.”

She said she doesn’t know of any fellow employees who receive paper checks.

Architecture senior Alexa Iverson said although she receives direct deposit from her job with University Landcare she also gets a paper pay statement every two weeks. She uses the statement as confirmation that she was paid, to see her total earnings for the summer and how much she’s paying in taxes, she said.

“It’s useful information to have on paper,” Iverson said.

Direct deposit is nice for students, she said, because funds are available right away and they don’t have to wait to deposit their check.

Because paper paychecks are typically preferred by older employees, the use of physical checks “might disappear eventually,” said history junior Miki McClellan, who also works for Landcare.

McClellan said she receives paper checks now but plans to set up direct deposit.

Though employees should be able to choose their preferred payment method, McClellan said, it would probably be easier for the University to have everyone on direct deposit.

“I think it’s fine if they want to try to make it more electronic,” she said.

A long-term trend

The University has also been using fewer paper job applications, making it difficult for prospective workers without computers to find employment here.

Revier said his wife tried to apply for a job at the University but was unable to find an application that wasn’t online.

He recalled job opportunities used to be posted on bulletin boards. Now, he said, applications go through a long electronic process involving multiple offices.

The University’s increased reliance on electronics has “taken all the personal judgment out of the management,” he said.

For example, if an employee is late, managers have to file employee tardiness into a computer system — even if it’s a minor tardiness that would’ve been excused in the past based on managers’ discretion.

Revier said he’s watched University computer systems develop since he began working here in 1975.

“We thought they were going to simplify our lives,” he said. “Our lives were much simpler before the computers.”