Val Faces Worker Shortage Amidst Student Unemployment
Issue   |   Wed, 10/05/2011 - 01:41
Megan Robertson ’15

Although work-study jobs may seem difficult to find for some, Valentine Dining Hall has many opportunities to earn money. Regardless, Val is still facing the issue of a lack of student workers.

“Students don’t have an interest in working in Val because they think it would be ‘gross’ or somehow uncool,” said Megan Duff ‘14, a student who’s worked in Val for over a year. “I also think it’s just a part of culture on campus that jobs during which you can do your homework are ideal. Honestly, I would just tell them it’s not that bad.”

As the first month of the fall semester ends, the lack of student workers in Val has also resulted in efficiency for employees, student workers and diners in Val alike. If Val had more student workers, “the students would benefit by having what they need more readily available to them,” said Robert Campbell, the Dining Hall Supervisor.

“It would allow us to process the dishes through the dish room ... get them back out into the servery quicker and free up our full time people to make sure that other items are kept stocked,” Campbell said.

Working in Val was the first job for Gaju Muhigi, a first-year at the College. She thought the application process was simple, compared to that of other campus jobs. As she learned the skills required for the job, she felt the employees gave the explanations in a straightforward, brief manner.

Another first-year student, Shannon Brathwaite, is a table cleaner in Val. From her first experiences with working in Val, she believes the non-student employees “treat [student workers] like associates,” rather than “a student that happens to be in their workspace.”

Recently, Val has advertised jobs like food server attendant, stir-fry station worker and beverage attendant with a willingness to train all hires.

“Certainly staffing the dish room is important, but having students capable of working at the various stations, especially the salad bar and stir fry, is also very helpful,” said Campbell. “Table wiping and vacuuming the dining rooms are also critical functions, providing a better dining experience for all students.”

Not only does Val have a higher hourly wage for student workers than other work-study jobs, but Campbell also mentioned the flexibility and other incentives.

“We can usually accommodate most students’ schedules by offering not only meal hours, but mid-afternoon and later evening hours as well,” Campbell said. “Students that work 120 hours in an academic year, and return to work the following year will get a $0.25 per hour raise.”

With the shortage of student workers in Val, Duff explained the reality of work-study.

“Any student who complains about needing a job, but refuses to work at Val is simply kidding themselves,” said Duff. “They don’t want a job ... they want to be paid to do their homework.”

“We know that academics have to take priority, but it does make it a bit harder for us,” said Campbell.

At some colleges and universities, students interested in work-study are assigned a job, rather than being afforded the liberty to choose a job that suits them. When considering the possibility of such a policy at Amherst, Catherine Amaya ’14 disagreed with the premise for instituting the policy.

“I don’t believe students would appreciate being assigned where to work,” said Amaya. “There are students who voluntarily sign up to work at Val and then decide to miss a shift every now and then.”

“We usually have enough students scheduled for shifts, but unfortunately we rarely get all of them to show up,” said Campbell. “Often, the students don’t even call to let us know that they won’t be in.”

Duff believes the recent renovations have “helped to improved efficiency.”

“Working at Val is better than it’s ever been,” she said.

Amaya complimented Val’s work environment as well, calling it a suitable place to take escape the constant pressures of life as a college student.

“The newly-renovated Dining Hall is a bright and more comfortable place to work,” said Campbell. “We are a very fast-paced, socially-energized atmosphere ... Our student workers are very much appreciated and valued, and we’re a fun bunch of people to work with.”