Many companies featured on Money advertise with us. Opinions are our own, but compensation and
in-depth research determine where and how companies may appear. Learn more about how we make money.

By Kristen Bahler
October 21, 2021
Cafeteria worker prepares individual plates for students
Getty Images

Worker shortages have hit college cafeterias hard — so hard, in fact, that at least one university is asking full-time faculty members to flip burgers and wipe tables in the interim.

The worst part? They won’t even get paid for their efforts.

“Faculty and staff from around campus are invited to sign up to assist in the dining halls!” a senior administrator at Michigan State University wrote in an email to colleagues that included an attached form asking participants to agree “to do this volunteer work for civic, charitable or humanitarian reasons” and to acknowledge they were “not coerced or required” to do so.

The email circulated around social media earlier this week, and asked academic staffers — a field that, on the whole, is already teetering "on the verge of burnout," according to the Chronicle of Higher Education — to help fill in during their downtime.

Ads by Money. We may be compensated if you click this ad.AdAds by Money disclaimer
Getting a great job starts with a great resume.
A Resume Builder can not only help improve your resume, but also match it with your career goals. Click on your state to get started.
HawaiiAlaskaFloridaSouth CarolinaGeorgiaAlabamaNorth CarolinaTennesseeRIRhode IslandCTConnecticutMAMassachusettsMaineNHNew HampshireVTVermontNew YorkNJNew JerseyDEDelawareMDMarylandWest VirginiaOhioMichiganArizonaNevadaUtahColoradoNew MexicoSouth DakotaIowaIndianaIllinoisMinnesotaWisconsinMissouriLouisianaVirginiaDCWashington DCIdahoCaliforniaNorth DakotaWashingtonOregonMontanaWyomingNebraskaKansasOklahomaPennsylvaniaKentuckyMississippiArkansasTexas
Get Started

“We have specific needs during evenings and weekends," it reads. "I ask that you share this message with your departments and units.”

The request underscores a nationwide labor shortage that has hit college campuses, which traditionally rely on low-wage workers to run their dining, custodial and maintenance divisions, particularly hard. The University of Iowa recently asked faculty members to volunteer to work a weekend football game, the Chronicle reports. Other colleges, like the Universities of Wyoming and Michigan at Ann Arbor, are scrambling to hire bus drivers — a problem elementary schools throughout the country are also facing.

For K-12 schools and universities alike, staffing shortages exacerbate the ever-worsening challenges of keeping classrooms open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michigan State, for one, started the school year down thousands of student employees, and about 70 full-time culinary staffers, according to the Chronicle. Things appear to be looking up: The university has hired enough dining hall workers to move from needing to fill 90 shifts a day to 50 shifts, according to Inside Higher Ed. Still, faculty quoted in that story say Michigan State has yet to find a single faculty member “willing to volunteer.”

Ads by Money. We may be compensated if you click this ad.AdAds by Money disclaimer
Build your professional brand with a Resume Builder.
TopResume offers a place to take your career stories and create your professional brand, starting with a great resume. Click below to get started.
Get Started

More from Money:

Amherst College No Longer Cares If Your Parents Went There

'Burnout' and 'Mental Health' Mentions in Online Job Reviews Have Doubled

How to Pay for College