Gamblers learn about wage discrepancy

Freshman accountancy major Kevin Haywood (right) takes a roll on the craps table as freshman engineering major Daniel Bankemper looks on during Casino Night in the Stevenson food court Friday night.

By Alex Fiore

NIU students were doubling down, hitting the point and placing their bets Friday night, all while 1,700 miles away from the Las Vegas strip.

Project RED (Residents Engaging in Diversity) hosted their fourth annual “Casino Night” in the Stevenson Towers Main Street Food Court, where students could play casino games without risking any actual money.

What made this casino different than most were the decorations. The walls were adorned with posters that read “For every $1 a white man earns, a white woman earns 74 cents.”

Similarly, African American men earned 72 cents, black women earned 64 cents, Latino men earned 54 cents and Latina women earned 52 cents to the white man’s $1, according to the posters.

“It’s shocking how low it is,” said junior finance major Matt Keating.

Casino Night served as a way of educating students about wage discrepancy between race and sex.

“We want students to learn about the injustices of wage differentials and encourage them to have productive dialogue about it,” said Bianca McGraw, Grant Hall A Director and Project RED coordinator.

Students were disappointed at how large wage discrepancy was.

“It’s crazy, but it’s facts everyone needs to know,” said Khaylin Snead, sophomore sports management major.

Project RED said they hoped to shed light on a subject that not everyone is familiar with.

“Wages aren’t something college students are [necessarily] cognizant of,” said Kyleen Ammerman, Grant Hall B Director and Project RED coordinator.

The Illinois Equal Pay Act of 2003 prohibits employers from “paying unequal wages…for doing the same or substantially similar work, requiring equal skill, effort and responsibility, under similar working conditions.”

Students had the option to play at three blackjack tables, four Texas Hold’Em poker tables, craps, or roulette.

The estimated 60 attendees were prompted to come by their community advisors, friends and promotional posters.

“I was just feeling lucky,” Snead said, with a laugh.

Students’ hands were marked with an X when they entered the casino floor, and they were given two $500 chips.

After students changed out their chips for smaller amount, they began to play games. With the “money” students earned, they had the opportunity to win prizes ranging from hooded sweatshirts, a blanket, T-shirts, hats, a basketball, and more items purchased from the University Bookstore.

When students were finished playing, they could cash out their chips in the form of raffle tickets and enter to win prizes.

Besides the educational posters that decorated the walls, there was another surprise in store for those in attendance.

When students lined up to cash in their chips, they were made aware that the Xs they had marked on their hand had a hidden meaning.

Each color X stood for a different race and sex, had been randomly assigned and would determine what kind of exchange rate they would get on their chips. For instance, people marked as white males would receive one raffle ticket per $50 in chips, whereas students marked as a Latina woman got one ticket per $100 in chips.

Not all students were happy after they heard about the unique caveat.

“I felt cheated,” Snead said.

Before the raffle drawing, McGraw spoke about wage discrepancy to the crowd.

“This happens all the time,” she said.

McGraw gave examples of coworkers receiving unequal pay for doing equal work, working equal hours and having equal experience. Students roundly agreed this was unfair.

She also encouraged employed students to check with their human resources department to ensure they were not the victim of wage discrimination.

Ammerman said she hopes the current generation will make a difference, especially after being given more information about it.

“One of the millennium generation’s core traits is embracing diversity,” she said.