Student Unemployment Graphic

Several students were let go from their on-campus jobs without much warning after the shift to online-only education earlier this semester. A plethora of student employees at University Student Centers, like Talley Student Union, were affected by this change. 

Mary Beth Cole, a second-year studying economics, was suddenly fired from her position as a reservation assistant at Rave! Events and an information assistant in Talley Student Union.

“When the email was sent out about housing, that they had to go home, I kind of felt like it was coming,” Cole said. “The email did come pretty quick. The email wasn’t like ‘We’ll give you two weeks.’ It was like ‘No, a couple days after, you're out of a job.’ It was kind of shocking for it to end like that.”

Lagan McGinnis, a second-year studying computer science, was working as a barista at Port City Java and said her termination also came very unexpectedly.

“I wouldn’t even say I was given any notice,” McGinnis said. “I was told beforehand to stop showing up for my shifts, and then I got an email saying I was let go.”

However, Erica Epps, the associate director of event services in Talley Student Union, said she tried to remain transparent with her student employees as they received communication from their division about student employment.

“We knew going into the fall that we needed to cut back our spending on student labor by about 40% to be able to adjust to the loss of revenue from not being able to host events,” Epps said. “We were notified again by our division that we needed to terminate the remainder of our student employees. We put together a proposal to get an exception to that because we love our student employees.”

According to Epps, Rave! Events was able to keep 19 undergraduate and graduate students on its payroll for this semester. The Student employment program is normally around 100 students.

Despite the release from their jobs, two former employees of Rave! Events, Cole, as well as Aaliyah Bailey, a third-year majoring in international studies, both said their superiors made efforts to help them adjust to the sudden change.

“My supervisor and grad assistant gave us a document of jobs in the area we could check out,” Bailey said. “My supervisor let me know she’d be happy to write me a recommendation letter if I needed it.”

Cole said her supervisors were helpful in calming their employees down and helping them find new job opportunities.

Casey Kenner, the program development coordinator for University Student Centers, said department employees have been doing all they can to help their students who may be struggling after the unexpected loss of a job.

“Students are grieving kind of the loss of a really normal semester and, for a lot of students, an employment program is a really stable, not just job, but environment to be around,” Kenner said. “Trying to take care of the overall financial, mental and academic wellness of our students, I think that was really our priority.”

For Cole and Bailey, the loss of a job also meant moving home. They said their employment was one of the only things keeping them near campus.

Some student employees were lucky enough to keep their housing, like resident advisors (RAs). An RA who wished to remain anonymous said she was surprised and grateful to hear that she was able to stay in her housing, despite losing her job as an RA. According to her, there was a lot left undetermined after hearing the termination of her employment.

“Thankfully, about a week after they came out with the announcement, they were like, ‘Any RAs do get to stay on campus for free,’ which I’m very grateful for,” she said. “It was really stressful not knowing where I was going to be living.”

Many students who were let go by the University are also finding it difficult to find a job near campus, according to McGinnis.

“I’ve looked all over the place, but it’s basically impossible to find anything on campus right now and a lot of stuff nearby is not hiring,” McGinnis said.

Cole said the uncertainty of the future is affecting her job search in her hometown, since she does not know the circumstances surrounding her potential rehiring next semester.

“I don’t want to get a job where they expect me to be there for a while because, if I do get the job back in Talley for next semester, it kind of would be pointless,” Cole said.

The administration at University Student Centers is aware of the uncertainty and inconvenience that the University’s budget cuts have caused for students, according to Epps. 

“It’s been really challenging when we’re kind of in the middle and we’re being told what to do from up here and sharing the message with our students,” Epps said. 

She is hopeful and anxiously awaiting the moment when she can begin to rehire student workers.

“We’re all people, and we’re all in this together, and we’re doing the best we can,” Epps said. “We’re just ready to have them back and, hopefully, that will happen as soon as it’s safe to do so.”