Allow campus baristas to receive tips

Sami Arni, Columnist

Working as a barista is a job that many students undertake during their time in college. However, in comparison to off-campus coffee shops, UT campus cafes are unique in that they don’t let baristas accept tips. This policy prevents students from earning the extra money that they could at other off-campus jobs. 

To better support student workers, UT campus baristas should be able to receive tips similarly to those who work in coffee shops off-campus.

One cafe student manager, whose name has been withheld for privacy, noted that while he enjoys his time working at the cafe, he supports the idea that customers should have the freedom to tip who they want and highlighted that baristas have even been forced to reject tips in the past.

“One time, a person just said ‘I’m going to tip you regardless’ and left the money there,” the cafe manager said. “We had to turn it into University Housing and Dining (due to policy).”

According to Brandon Willett, the associate director of human resources for University Housing and Dining, the reason why baristas don’t receive tips is due to concerns about equalizing pay between eateries across campus.

“A tipping system at our coffee shops would penalize some of our students who work at our other dining locations, as well as our baristas who aren’t able to work as many shifts,” Willett said. “Some baristas may work at busier times or at some of our busier locations, and since tips aren’t factored in, our dining students are compensated fairly no matter what their schedule is or where they’re employed on campus.”

Willett also highlighted some of the unique benefits that UHD provides its student employees, such as shorter shifts, holidays off, meals during shifts, flexible work hours that accommodate for course schedules and the fact that UHD compensates employees starting at $13 an hour.

However, John Guzman, an international relations and global studies and supply chain management junior, disagrees with this sentiment. Guzman worked as a student assistant at the Jester City Limits dining hall and is now a barista at Starbucks, and he believes that baristas on campus should be tipped due to their different skill set.

“As a student assistant, you serve food that was premade by the chefs in the back of the kitchen, but as a barista, you have to create every drink, customize it and make it on demand,” Guzman said. “That can be really hard, especially during rush hours when students are waiting for their coffee.”

Guzman also added that being a barista requires a lot more training, and that the University should raise wages if they want to better equalize the benefits across all eateries within campus. 

The University has the opportunity to help students earn more money that they need to support themselves here on campus. Allowing customers the option to tip baristas can better promote these positions and allow for the same opportunities as other workplaces.

Arni is a political communication and urban studies sophomore from Austin, TX.