Like scores of Michigan businesses, the dining halls at Michigan State University are suffering from staff shortages. The solution on the table? Ask faculty, staff and students to lend a hand.
As unpaid volunteers.
The university has also redirected 132 administrative staffers to put in eight hours a week in dining halls, with pay, but still hopes students will sign up to dish out chow for good-citizen compensation, i.e., nothing.
"Faculty and staff from around campus are invited to sign up to assist in the dining halls!" (Vennie Gore, MSU's senior vice president for residential and hospitality services) wrote. "We have special needs during evenings and weekends."
Some faculty members are dumbfounded by the request.
"I am a little shocked that was a solution that folks came up with," said Marcos "Danny" Caballero, an MSU associate professor in physics education. “We are a land grant university, and in that mission is our job to provide a real service to the citizens of the state and that involves us doing really important research but it involves contributing to Michigan citizens and the economy through that. What is so surprising and frustrating about this is I don’t see how the decisions align with our land grant mission.”
The university has boosted hourly pay for dining-hall jobs from $10-$12 to $13-$15. But there was no mention of any such sweetener for students willing to chip in on the grill line.
Meanwhile, university officials say the situation is improving, but too slowly:
"Things are improving," said (Kat Cooper, spokeswoman for MSU's Residential and Hospitality Services). "We are steadily hiring. This is a big ship to turn around. To go from the lights out to lights on with 16,000 students living on campus, that is a really difficult feat. So it is taking longer than we'd like."
The Residential and Hospitality Services depatrtment has cut dinner services at two dining halls and modified hours at all facilities.
Maybe they could ask someone in the economics department how to solve this problem. They might have some ideas.