EAST LANSING, Mich. — Dining halls at Michigan State University are now limited to students only or closed for dinner all together because the university can't find enough employees.
Students aren't happy about it.
“Michigan State is experiencing a staffing shortage of, kind of, epic proportions, something that we’ve not quite ever seen before,” said Kat Cooper, chief communications officer for Residential and Hospitality Services.
Cooper said the university saw a significant decrease in the number of student workers this year.
“In a typical year, we start the year with 3,900 student team members," Cooper said. "We have more student team members than we have full-time team members and this year we started, unfortunately, with just over 400 team members.”
She said those employed with the hospitality services are working 60 to 80 hours per week and the limited staff combined with product shortages have caused dining halls to be designated for students only or, in the case of Landon and Shaw halls, to close for dinner completely.
“We had to look critically at our operations to give students the nutrition they need to get through their day,” Cooper said.
MSU freshman Hailey Schindler lives in Landon Hall and said having the dining area closed has been really inconvenient.
“It was so convenient living in Landon and going right down stairs and into the dining hall," Schindler said. "So, it’s been kind of a burden, especially on my bank account, because I keep going out to dinner.”
She said she bought a meal plan but hasn't been utilizing it.
“If I knew this was coming, I don’t know if I would’ve gotten a meal plan honestly, because there’s so many other options like right down Grand River that I could get and use that are so much closer and honestly that I would prefer a lot more than the other dining hall options,” Schindler said.
Schindler isn't alone in her frustration.
Anna Heim started a petition to keep Landon Hall open for dinner. Her petition says she's concerned about women traveling alone at night on campus, the long round trip bus routes and the early closing times of nearby options like Biggby and Sparty's.
The petition has more than 500 signatures.
Cooper said they're working on solutions to some of those concerns like providing more options for meals on the go.
“We have a program we call combo exchange, it’s meals on the go, snacks on the go from our retail areas," Cooper said. "So, we have had them at six per week in the past, we doubled them to twelve. We also added our on campus retail partners to the meal plan so that students are able to have more access to dining wherever they are on campus.”
And running shuttle to the dining halls.
“We’re putting a shuttle service in place in order to get students over to Brody quickly and safely," Cooper said. "We’re also allowing students in Landon and Shaw to take a to-go meal at lunch to save for dinner.”
MSU is also trying to hire more people at a competitive wage.
“We’ve increased from $10 to $12 an hour to $13 to $15 an hour in those areas we are struggling to fill,” Cooper said.
Schindler hopes those positions get filled soon.
“I’m really hoping Landon Hall opens up for the winter months at least for dinner, maybe closed for breakfast, just because it’s such an inconvenience to have to walk in the snow and stuff," Schindler said. "It’s going to be brutal I think.”
Cooper said they're hosting a hiring fair Thursday at the Breslin Center from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. for part time positions in the dining halls.
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