Hiring students to replace guards may violate federal rules

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The Indianapolis Museum of Art's plan to employ 100 students through a federally funded work-study program is on hold, pending a compliance review by IUPUI.

The IMA announced on Monday that it would institute a new security program that includes the use of IUPUI students filling the role of "visitor assistants." Also on Monday, the museum fired 33 full-time and 23 part-time security guards. The changes are part of a revamped security program that includes enhanced electronic surveillance and adding 14 reserve police officers who will patrol the museum complex.

Education Department rules say students in the work-study program can work at businesses, government agencies and not-for-profits, but they can't be used to displace existing employees. IUPUI spokesman Rich Schneider said the university is responsible for compliance.  "The museum's position is that this program it announced doesn't displace," he said. "That's what the review is about."

In the meantime, IMA spokeswoman Katie Zarich said the museum will continue to use visitor assistants and cover 100 percent of their $10-per-hour wage.

"We're hoping to get it resolved as quickly as possible," Zarich said.

According to the IMA's Monday press release, the visitor assistants will "provide increased security and enhanced customer service, while reducing costs associated with security." The museum said on Monday that its new security model would save $600,000 a year. The visitor assistants would earn $10 per hour, but the museum would pay only 25 percent of that amount. The security guards who were eliminated earned on average $11.50 per hour.

In a letter to museum staff on Thursday, CEO Maxwell Anderson explained how the role of "visitor assistants" differs from that of security guards who were let go.

"The role of visitor assistants is primarily to focus on customer service," Anderson said. "The visitor assistants are trained ambassadors of the museum experience; they are posted throughout museum galleries and the rest of the campus. They receive training about the museum's permanent collection and its special exhibitions in order to better answer visitor questions."

Anderson said in his e-mail that the IMA had recruited students with various language skills, and that many are pursuing careers in art history or museum studies. "Their involvement with public safety is the same as that for any staff member, volunteer, or visitor: if you see a problem, alert someone of authority."

The museum has been working with IUPUI's work-study office for some time on the new security program and the role of students. Neither Schneider nor Zarich could explain why the university would decide at this point to review compliance.

In his letter to staff, Anderson blamed news coverage.

"Unfortunately, media coverage insinuating that the visitor assistants were a direct swap out for former security staff has brought undue attention to this program," he said.


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  1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

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  4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

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