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MSU asks faculty, staff to volunteer in dining halls

Brody Dining Hall
Posted at 1:22 PM, Oct 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-20 17:34:14-04

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State University is asking faculty and staff for volunteer their services in the university's dining halls to offset a shortage of student workers.

In a letter sent to department chairs, Residential and Hospitality Services Vice President Vennie Gore is asking for help to continue serving the campus community.

"Many businesses in the local area and around the country are hiring and we are all competing for the same available talent," the letter says.

Chief Communications Officer Kat Cooper said they've been having staffing shortages since August, resulting in the closure of dining halls to the public and Landon and Shaw Halls being closed for dinner.

“We have culinary team members who are working many, many hours, and we need them to be able to relax and rejuvenate in order to come back and deliver outstanding Spartan experiences,” Cooper said.

Cooper said, since those closures, they've hired more people.

“We were able to have a hiring fair. We hired several hundred people through that process and are getting them on boarded. And we've gone from needing about 90 people a day to help fill in, to about 50 people a day," Cooper said.

Residential and Hospitality Services has even asked 132 full-time administrative staff to work eight hours in the dining halls each week, but is still understaffed and is asking for more help to "continue serving our campus community."

“This is something that some faculty and staff members have asked us for," Cooper said. "They've asked us how can we help and we certainly appreciate that they help every year during move in, and it has been a really great way to serve our students.”

President of the MSU Union of Non-Tenure Track Faculty Kate Birdsall said she can't wrap her head around the request.

“I understand that they need people to work in the dining halls," Birdsall said. "But they are asking faculty and academic staff who are already working more than full time in most cases. It seems like an attempt to try to use our compassion for students to exploit our time and energy.”

Cooper said she understands volunteering isn't going to work for everyone.

“Many people have very full plates and family obligations on top of that," Cooper said. "While we would love to have their help and we appreciate their help, it's not mandatory.”

But it's a temporary fix to get the university's dining halls back on track. Cooper said with the number of people they've hired, some services have started reopening.

“We are opening The Roost, one of the quick service restaurants in the MSU Union food court," Cooper said. "And we will be able to reopen Shaw and Landon dining halls for dinner services Monday through Friday as grab-and-go starting Nov. 1.”

Even if the staffing shortage improves, supply shortages are still a problem.

“Until we're able to clear all those ships that are sitting off the coast of California, and get those supplies across the country, it's going to continue to be a problem," Cooper said.

The letter says the dining halls particularly need volunteers for evening and weekend shifts.

The letter asks interested volunteers to fill out a survey, a background check and includes instructions on how to prepare for their first day.

The university has also raised the starting wage for dining hall employees from $10 to $15 an hour.

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