ISU Dining discontinues student workers’ schedules for remainder of semester

ISU Dining has discontinued workers’ schedules for the rest of the semester due to restrictions from COVID-19.

Amber Mohmand

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article included an incorrect timeline and a misrepresented quote. The article as since been corrected. The Daily regrets this error. 

ISU Dining has discontinued workers’ schedules for the rest of the semester, though student workers said they have not received a prior warning. 

“None of us were expecting to be totally out of work, especially not for the rest of the whole semester,” said Olivia Lehman, senior in English and women’s and gender studies and student supervisor at Bookends Cafe for three years. 

On March 17, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered all bars and restaurants to sell carry-out and drive-thru only. The measures will remain in place until 11:59 p.m. March 31. 

Following Reynolds’ announcement, ISU Dining announced it would be limited to carry-out only.

Iowa State University moved to online classes on March 18, Brittney Rutherford, communications manager for ISU Dining, said they notified the bulk of their students on March 19.

Then ISU Dining notified the student workers who worked during spring break on March 20, which stated they had to discontinue student worker schedules for the semester. 

Ashlyn Butler, senior double majoring in English and women’s and gender studies with a minor in film studies and  student supervisor at Bookends Cafe and the Roasterie Cafe, said she was granted 40 hours of work. 

“During this past week, myself and others asked countless times if we should prepare for being laid off,” Butler said. “Unfortunately, even our managers were unsure of what would happen. They were also prohibited by the head of ISU Dining to send out an email warning students of possible unemployment. We had our suspicions, but up until this point, ISU Dining reassured us they were going to provide us with hours, even going so far as sending out a survey to see what students were willing to work.” 

Throughout the process of transferring the dining services to carry-out Rutherford said the guidance team met to determine what type of staffing structure they would need. 

“Our team couldn’t keep [the students] updated in real time because those discussions were happening with what we would need to do for services, what that looks like for staffing structures, for students, as well as other full-time staff members,” Rutherford said. 

Students who were not working during spring break were notified March 19 and those working during break were notified March 20. Rutherford said the students were within 24 hours of classes moving online for the remainder of the semester and how that impacted their jobs.

ISU Dining will plan ahead for the fall semester and distribute self-scheduling information, according to an email sent March 20.

“Every person right now, whether you’re a college student or a parent — everyone — all humans are impacted by it, and we’re all impacted in different ways,” Rutherford said. “[…] So when it comes to students, there’s personal decisions, and those personal needs have to factor into play, and unfortunately, this is what we had to do as an organization.” 

In addition to this announcement, a petition was created with over 2,000 students’ signatures demanding the university should forgive any outstanding balances and immediately lift the account holds from the Accounts Receivables Office. 

“Unfortunately, myself and others have been depending on our work in order to pay rent and live in Ames,” Butler said. “With the sudden closure, I already know of a handful of students who have had to move back home and file for unemployment. Overall, the mood amongst the workers I am in contact with is bleak. We have all lost faith and trust in the very institution we worked for, and it’s especially disheartening to those who no longer have the basic resources to live.”

The petition also demanded Iowa State should use the funds previously allocated to student workers and distribute paychecks to each and every student worker that has been displaced as a result of the partial campus shutdown due to the COVID-19 isolation. 

The petition was created by Maximilian Vymetal, senior in agricultural studies and horticulture; they said they worked at Parks Library. 

“I came up with the idea to write a petition because I don’t want to see my friends hurting,” Vymetal said. “I decided to go a step further, however, and add that the university waive all remaining U-Bill balances in light students’ financial instability.”

Vymetal said the petition is a form of validating the financial hardship and instability students are facing. 

“So many students are hurting financially, emotionally [and] socially right now, and morale is low,” Vymetal said. “Getting the university to recognize our hurt and give us real remedies would really mean a lot. It won’t fix everything obviously, but I feel like it would make a lot of us feel more optimistic about what comes after the pandemic.” 

In terms of financial compensation, Rutherford said the bigger question comes to Iowa State as a whole. 

“The bigger question is [if] the university continues to work on options for assistance and when it comes to our student workers and what that could look like at Iowa State as a whole,” Rutherford said. “So if people are discussing it, they’re trying to work on options; there aren’t answers right now to those questions.”

In regard to tuition, a hold is typically placed on the U-Bill if it is not paid for the current term, meaning that students are not able to register or make schedule changes for classes in the upcoming term until the balance is paid.

Currently, the university made an exception to placing holds on U-Bills, and students will not be prevented from registering for future terms.

The Accounts Receivables Office will not charge students extra money if the payments are late.

“The petition is necessary because the university needs to know how this is affecting students,” Vymetal said. “We appreciate the steps they’ve taken to protect our health, but what about our livelihoods? We give our lives to the university for four years and pay for the opportunity to be here, so support from the university would go a long way.” 

Students have said they want the university to validate their experience during this time period. 

“I want [ISU Dining] to know that they did not handle it well, and I feel disrespected by them,” Lehman said. “I was a great and loyal worker for them […], and for them to not allow us time to prepare feels like a slap in the face.”