Work study during the pandemic: Campus Dining not hiring students, student reactions and more

Campus Dining stated that their service model this semester “does not require the use of student employees.”

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Hunter Long

Nicholas S. Zeppos College Dining Hall is one of several on-campus dining locations Vanderbilt offers. (Hustler Multimedia/Hunter Long)

Thomas Hum, News Copy Editor

According to a university spokesperson, Campus Dining’s service model this semester does not require the use of student employees, and this is expected to remain consistent through Spring 2021.

“Staffing needs are reassessed at the end of each academic year; any modifications to our staffing model will be made next summer,” the statement continued.

Although on-campus dining jobs will not be made available to students this academic year, the HireADore web portal remains accessible, with open positions ranging from Office Assistant and Front Desk Receptionist to Research Assistant and Community Outreach Worker. According to their listings, job responsibilities for these roles may be in-person, remote or a combination of both.

Sophomore Lia Okenkova, who works as a front desk assistant for the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships, commented on her work study experience in the context of the pandemic.

“In my position, I do not feel any more uncomfortable as I would in my in-person classes,” Okenkova said in an email to The Hustler. “I work alone and am provided with numerous levels of safety precautions and preventive measures to ensure my safety and the safety of the other students.”

Sophomore Otobong Udofia, who is currently exploring work study opportunities, also weighed in on his concerns about COVID-19 while on the job.

“I am slightly concerned, but due to the nature of the jobs I’m looking at, I would assume that there would be adjustments in place to deal with COVID-19,” Udofia said in an email to The Hustler.

According to the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships (OSFAS), 457 undergraduate students and 202 graduate and professional students participated in Federal Work Study during the 2019-2020 academic year.

Additionally, in an email statement sent to The Hustler from OSFAS before the start of the Fall 2020 semester, there are no changes to how the Federal Work Study program works in light of the COVID-19. However, OSFAS did anticipate that the number of available jobs would be lower this year due to the pandemic.

“We are committed to assisting any student who is seeking a job to find a position either on-campus or off-campus,” the statement reads.

The Vanderbilt Recreation and Wellness Center as well as the Outdoor Recreation Center are not currently open at full capacity. This temporary closing of campus facilities presents fewer employment opportunities for Vanderbilt students. With the Recreation and Wellness Center being used as a COVID-19 testing center, some students are petitioning for the reopening of the building for student usage.

“I think it’s for the best that students shouldn’t be allowed to work in Campus Dining this semester due to how easy it is for the virus to enter your system through a person’s mouth and/or nose,” Udofia said. “On the other hand, not letting students work at the [Recreation and Wellness Center] is understandable, but I think there could easily be some adjustments put in place to make working there viable.”

Okenkova also spoke to the significance of Campus Dining and the Recreation and Wellness Center in providing student work opportunities.

“As I understood from friends last year, Campus Dining and the [Recreation and Wellness Center] typically provide a lot of jobs for student workers,” Okenkova said. “I don’t see why Campus Dining wouldn’t be able to take on student workers this semester, considering that wait times have increased and many students depend on/are required to use federal work-study to pay tuition.”