Wildcard office understaffed, workers hope for change


Evan Robinson-Johnson/Daily Senior Staffer

Arthur Monge, manager of Northwestern’s Wildcard Program and Auxiliary Services, works in the Wildcard office located in the basement of Norris University Center. Only three staff members work at the Evanston and Chicago offices, and they provide services for over 30,000 people.

Neya Thanikachalam, Assistant Campus Editor

After over 20 years as manager of Northwestern’s Wildcard Program and Auxiliary Services, Arthur Monge will retire this December because of understaffing in his office.

After another staff member retired in April, there are only three administrators remaining at the Wildcard offices: two in Evanston and one in Chicago. The offices serve over 30,000 people, and Monge and his coworkers are constantly overwhelmed, he said. Northwestern Facilities Services will evaluate the Wildcard office to see if there is a need for new staff members.

The Wildcard office runs year-round, and summer is the most difficult season, Monge said. Staffers provide ID cards for participants of summer programs and process incoming fall students. They produce anywhere from 6,000 to 8,000 cards, he said.

Monge said he was so busy over the summer that he’d sometimes work 14-hour days and skip his lunch break.

“I don’t have the luxury of saying, ‘You know what? If they don’t get done, you don’t get to eat, or you don’t get to access your building or facilities with your Wildcard,’” he said. “I realize the importance of the ID card for students and for summer campers, so I had to do whatever it took.”

Monge said he tried to do the bulk of the work, so his colleagues weren’t affected by the short staffing.

Program assistant Nancy Denton, who works at the Evanston Office, echoed the need for more help to spread work out more evenly.

“We’re doing our jobs, we’re getting through today, but it would be wonderful if we had someone else,” she said.

Denton added that when she wants to take a day off, she has to give her boss two weeks notice to find someone to cover her shift. If she’s covering a shift for someone at the Chicago office, she’d have to close the office to take a lunch break, she said.

Monge said he’s voiced his concerns to administration for a decade, but they didn’t do anything to address the problems.

However, Angela Williams, the assistant vice president of Facilities Services, who oversees the Wildcard Program, said the University is looking into restructuring the office.

“We’re looking at the future of how to enhance the overall experience, not only on the Evanston campus, but also the Chicago campus,” Williams said.

But after Monge retires, his colleagues will have to do the same amount of work. Monge said he’s worried the new manager will burn out like he did, unless there is some change.

Williams also added that if Monge had needed extra support, he could’ve submitted a request to the Position Management Committee. Monge said he never heard about this step, despite talking to various University departments about short-staffing.

“Maybe it was my fault,” Monge said. “Maybe I did so much on my own, kept the program running, that they said, ‘Oh, they’re fine.’”

However, Monge said the University is only harming itself by not increasing the staff at the office. He said he has to do customer service-related tasks along with his administrative duties, affecting the productivity of the office.

If it weren’t for the understaffing, Monge said he would have stayed longer at Northwestern.

“I used to be that full-sized candle that unfortunately has burned out and there’s nothing left in the tank,” he said. “Ultimately, my goal would have been to give another 10 years… but unfortunately, under these current conditions, for me personally, it’s just not possible.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @neyachalam