Dining hall labor shortage must be addressed

Faith DuFresne, Columnist

Sometimes it’s a hot meal served with a kind smile, and sometimes it’s a locked door and a dark room. The labor shortages throughout the dining halls across campus have caused food lines to lengthen, a drop in consistency and shorter operating hours. And, as a connoisseur of unlimited swipes and dine-in dollars, my recent inability to utilize them when my schedule deems fit has been frustrating.

The lack of labor is evident in the halls, as staff has no option but to limit the selection of food and hours of service. The staff has attempted to ease the discrepancies in hours of operation and food selection by posting their hours and menus online for the coming week. The University also tried to incentivize the hiring process by raising the pay and even paying employees for overtime. While this addition is helpful, more has to be done.

The dining hall inconsistencies are causing issues amongst the student body. The lack of reliable options affects the daily lives of the students, requiring adjustment in schedules based upon the availability of food, rather than eating at convenient times. 

Undeclared freshman Anvi Bora explained her experience with trying to get meals when the halls were closed. She used the posted schedules, but still felt like they weren’t entirely accurate.

“I went to the dining hall website where they give the hours and I bookmarked that page … and then I just have to adjust my schedules to have early dinners. If you do go check the schedule it’s fine, except one time one of my friends checked the schedule for Jesta’ Pizza, and it still was closed even though it technically was supposed to be open,” she said.

Students are forced into a box where the options pale in comparison to the open access initially promised and paid for this year. Additionally, a limited dining hall often fails to provide choices for students with dietary restrictions.

Bora explained that some of her vegetarian friends are struggling to find a variety of options that fit their dietary needs, and many meals, they can only eat a salad. 

Unforeseen closings and random hours curate an environment where students are constantly unsure of where their options exist. While acclimating to a new college environment, students often depend on consistency, which the dining halls aren’t providing.

Mynor Rivera, Director of Dining Operations, explained how the department has tried to deal with the lack of employees. 

“We close all the venues and close all the retail operations, and we transfer all that labor to residential to accommodate our staff. Our main focus is to make sure our residents and people living in campus have a meal,” Rivera said.

This compilation of labor has allowed the dining halls to be open longer, yet Rivera also emphasized the extra hours employees are working to provide service to students. They have taken on longer shifts and additional days to ensure meals are served, which isn’t fair to them. 

With an overworked staff and disgruntled student body, it is evident new hires are absolutely necessary to entertain a successful dining system. New hires would permit the extension of hours and an expansion of the current menu, guaranteeing students the full use of their paid dining plan.  More staff would open more dining venues and would make each hall fully operational, a basic necessity students have yet to experience this semester. It would also ease the burden of work on current dining hall staff members. 

“I am a freshman. So we kind of have no other option besides the dining hall,” Bora said.

Students deserve what they’re paying thousands for — unlimited access to a variety of food.

DuFresne is a journalism freshman from Dallas, Texas.