Students lose jobs due to campus closures

Thursday, April 2, 2020 - 2:04pm

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With businesses temporarily closing and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Stay Home, Stay Safe Executive Order, many students’ on-campus jobs have been left in limbo.

When the news of moving to remote learning broke on March 11, LSA freshman Zachary Burton said he planned to stay on campus and continue working with MDining at South Quad Residence Hall. He has held this position since November and said he hoped to pick up extra hours in light of online classes and reduced social gatherings.

Burton said he didn’t have too many concerns about staying on campus initially.

“It was a little bit stressful, but I didn’t let it get to me that much,” Burton said. “After a certain point, you’re just like, ‘Okay, here we go again. Here’s another mess to deal with.’” 

However, as University of Michigan Housing encouraged people who are able to leave campus, Burton said he found himself feeling like one of the last people living in South Quad.

“I know everyone in my friend group left before I did, because I was intending to stay on campus,” Burton said. “I decided to leave once I realized that it’s going to shut down soon anyway.”

As for his job, MDining is allowing student employees to stop working if they leave campus while still being able to resume their job once they return to campus. According to Burton, the University Housing refund covered what he would have been making had he not taken on any extra hours.

Even so, Burton said he is still worried about not having an income at this time, especially since both of his parents had to stop working due to the pandemic.

“I still would have liked to make more (money) because my family situation is not really the best at the moment,” Burton said. “I want to help out with that but I can’t, really.”

LSA freshman Katie Carroll also had an on-campus job she has held since last semester working as a student-teacher classroom aide at the North Campus Children’s Center. It was during one of her shifts at the Children’s Center that she got news of class cancellation.

“It was a little nerve-wracking — the fact that our classes had been canceled and the University basically shut was emailed to us during my shift,” Carroll said. “The Children’s Center still couldn’t get permission to close for like five days beyond that, even though they’re part of the University … so a lot of the teachers were nervous about that.”

When the Children’s Center closed, Carroll said she and other employees were offered the option to work directly with the children at the Children’s Center as nannies. However, since she lived in a residence hall, she left campus and was unable to utilize this option. 

Besides the financial hit, Carroll said there was an emotional toll of having to leave her job. 

“I wasn’t expecting that I was going to get a job at a place that I love so much,” Carroll said. “It’s hard to not see those kids a couple times a week because I really did love my job … one of the favorite parts of my week is gone until further notice.”

LSA sophomore Trenten Ingell has continued his job as an organization peer advisor with the Center for Campus Involvement remotely. He recognizes he is in a better position than most students. 

In light of the situation, Ingell has worked on a number of petitions, including a call to stop on- and off-campus rent payments. According to the petition, these efforts hope to help students faced with the choice of staying on campus to work despite health concerns or going home and risking not being able to pay rent.

“A lot of people have lost their ability to work and provide at least some sort of income for themselves,” Ingell said. “I think that’s certainly been an issue for a lot of people.”

Ultimately, while Burton said losing his job temporarily has been difficult, he said he believes he can get through this challenging time. 

“Even though it’s a mess I’ve never dealt with before, it’s still a mess I can deal with,” Burton said. “We’ll get through it somehow.” 

In an interview with The Daily March 27, University President Mark Schlissel said students who are not longer working won’t be paid, but noted the University is working to find a job for students who stayed on campus and wish to continue to work. 

“Work study is a work program, so if they’re not working I don't believe we can pay them at home for not working,” Schlissel said. “But the students that are, we've endeavored to keep employed, because we've realized that many of the students rely on that income and a lot of it’s being done on a case-by-case basis.”

Daily Staff Reporter Iulia Dobrin can be reached at idobrin@umich.edu.