Nearly 2,000 students were still living on campus in residence halls and university apartments as of late March, making staff in custodial, maintenance, dining and retail areas critical to keeping campus healthy and safe.
Currently, five dining halls remain open with limited hours for “grab and go” meals in Akers, Brody, Case, Shaw and Owen halls, as well as Sparty’s Market in 1855 Place and the MSU Union Food Court.
All these facilities, plus the many others that remain open for critical functions, are taking every precaution. All touchpoints are cleaned and sanitized regularly, tape has been placed on the ground to indicate where customers and employees should stand, and staff is minimizing contact with each other and customers by eliminating all self-service items, including beverages and cereal.
Campus dining, retail and residential operations rely heavily on student employees to serve in various roles. Now, staff who are well and comfortable doing so are working on campus voluntarily.
“With different operating hours and more shifts to fill, we’re having to piece together our team with help from other areas. We’re the only dining option right now for students and critical staff in West Circle,” said Mike Harding, retail manager at the Union Food Court. “I was given the option to work from home but feel like I need to be here for my team and to serve those who need us.”
Brody Square, MSU’s largest dining hall, typically serves between 5,000 and 7,000 meals per day and staffs upward of 100 employees (including management) on any given shift. Now, since most students have left campus, staff are only serving around 500 meals per day, and shifts have been reduced to no more than 25 employees.
“We’re cleaning and sanitizing all surfaces every 10 to 15 minutes. There’s also a dedicated staff person on every shift who pours and serves drinks to reduce touchpoints,” said Stacey Dawson, dining service complex manager at Brody. “We have an important job to do. We know this is a hard time for everyone, but we’ve been able to pull together to do what needs to be done and keep each other safe.”
Sparty’s Market in 1855 Place, which serves as a grocery store for many campus residents, also is keeping their doors open but modifying normal operating protocols. All grill and deli services have been suspended, and self-service fountain drinks have been shut down in favor of bottled beverages.
“When Starbucks closed, the manager and I joined forces to keep the market running. We’re the only staff left,” said Steve Krish, retail manager for Sparty’s Market. “I’m grateful to be doing the best we can given the circumstances. It’s our responsibility to continue providing safe dining options for our students.”
Across 27 residence halls, staff are working hard to ensure students who remain on campus are set up to continue their online education successfully with clean facilities and 24/7 staff support. Many students are unable to leave campus for various reasons – for some MSU is their only home. For those who left campus abruptly, staff are coordinating with those students to offer different options to gather the remainder of their belongings.
“Our biggest priority right now is supporting students who are concerned about catching the virus, reaching out to those who might feel isolated and encouraging residents to take safety precautions seriously, while also keeping our staff safe," said Brooke Robinson, North Hubbard Hall residence director. “I’ve also seen how this has taken a toll on our Asian and Asian American residents. It’s important that we recognize they’re dealing with a lot. We have incredible student leaders from these groups that have been extremely mindful of their safety, security and sense of belonging on campus.”
In University Apartments, nearly 70% of students have temporarily vacated, but most family housing is still occupied. Many custodial and maintenance staff are still on campus to support apartment and residence hall residents by following the same rigorous cleaning and sanitizing protocols. There are fewer public spaces in these buildings to clean, which makes things a little easier.
“We are communicating with our employees about wearing proper personal protective equipment and staying home from work if they don’t feel well or comfortable,” said Lindsey Evans, facilities supervisor for University Apartments. “Our residents appreciate that we’re doing our best to keep their living spaces safe and it’s nice to see our staff recognized, especially during this time.”
The latest updates and information relating to the university’s response to the novel coronavirus outbreak can be found at msu.edu/coronavirus.