Some departments on campus are having to adjust to operate with fewer employees while former student employees look for other jobs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hayley Harris, vice president for the Office of Human Resources, said she is pleased to see many departments across campus returning to operation and having student employees. She said there are currently approximately 2,300 student employee positions filled. However, she said many students have multiple jobs, and there are likely approximately 2,000 student employees, which she said is around the usual number of students employed each year.
“Some units were not able to employ their usual numbers of student employees over the past year,” she said via email. “These include Dining, Athletics and the Library — all areas that were impacted by our move from in-person to remote instruction, with its corresponding lessening demand on campus operations.”
Scott McWilliams, director of Dining Services, said dining currently has fewer students employed than usual due to a lower number of students who applied for jobs. He said that as of Feb. 12, there are approximately 126 students employed by Dining Services. Usually, he said there are approximately 200 student employees in dining. McWilliams said he hopes to have more students working in the dining halls soon.
“Now, due to COVID-19 protocols, everything has to be served, there’s nothing that students can touch,” he said. “It takes a lot more hands to do that.”
Food in the dining halls is served to students in a buffet-style line rather than students being able to serve themselves. McWilliams said that training student employees has also been difficult. He said usually training occurred in person, but now it is all done virtually.
“We talk about personal hygiene, food handling, safety, hand washing, … and then [student employees] get more training when they’re on the job,” he said.
Harris said that if a student tests positive for COVID-19, they will follow the college’s guidelines regarding quarantine, isolation and testing. Students who test positive are also not allowed to return to work in person until they are cleared.
“If students are able to perform work remotely during that time, it is up to the supervisor’s discretion to permit that,” she said via email.
Junior Leizbel Perdomo is a student manager at Campus Center Dining Hall. She was able to get a retail job at home while the college was operating remotely but has returned to her Campus Center position for Spring 2021. She has been working there since her freshman year and said she chose to return to working in Dining Services because of the sense of community among the workers.
“Even though it is stressful a lot, and a lot of times, you’re like, ‘I want to quit, like, I hate it here,’ we’re all very close,” Perdomo said. “Even with the dish room people or the cooks, even with the people at the pub, it’s a very close work community.”
Perdomo said she feels comfortable working in Dining Services despite the COVID-19 risks.
“Honestly, I feel a lot safer than I ever did at my retail job,” Perdomo said. “We’re separated enough from the students to where it feels pretty secure.”
Bernard Hogben, access services manager for the Ithaca College Library, said there were 38 students employed at the library before COVID-19. There were 26 student assistants and 12 student managers. He said now there are 14 student employees, 11 student assistants and three student managers. Hogben said student managers have more library training than assistants and also receive training from the Office of Public Safety as they work overnight after regular library staff go home.
Hogben said the number of students employed at the library depends on the library’s budget and hours. For Spring 2021, the library is open from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Sunday.
Senior Nicole Brokaw is a student manager in the library and began working in the library during her freshman year. She said the change in the library’s hours of operation has affected the hours she works as a student manager. Brokaw said she is working a similar number of hours as she did previous semesters, but her schedule has significantly changed.
“I’m having to work different days of the week, like I don’t normally work on weekends, but I am working on weekends now to make up that extra like four hours that I would normally be working overnight,” Brokaw said. “For students that, like me, have exclusively worked overnight, it’s like a little bit of a shift.”
Junior Malaya Press worked for Interlibrary Loan during her freshman and sophomore years but was not rehired when the library returned to operation in Spring 2021. Press said she was told there was not room in the budget to fill her position.
“Being remote for school, that did save in general because like housing and everything, but I currently don’t have very much income at all,” Press said. “So that’s definitely something I’m trying to figure out.”
Approximately 13.3 million undergraduate students are worried about their financial future due to COVID-19, according to WalletHub’s 2020 College Student Financial survey. Approximately 38% of college students were worried they would not have enough money to cover school-related expenses through Fall 2020.
Harris said students who have received work-study awards are given priority to ensure that they have a job opportunity. However, she said jobs are not guaranteed, and if students are willing to consider multiple different positions, they can find a job more easily.
Press said her main concern is trying to find another job while departments on campus are reducing their staff.
“I’ve been in that job since the beginning of freshman year,” Press said. “It’s mostly just a matter of having to figure that out again.”
Hogben said that since COVID-19, the library has shifted to more virtual services and the library has also adopted curbside pickup for materials students want to check out. Hogben said he hopes regular library services can return in Fall 2021.
“I value and appreciate our student employees so much,” Hogben said. “I am very grateful for the fact that we are open for faculty, staff and students and our student employees and managers are back. I’m very grateful.”