Putting in hours
City businesses, MSU campus swarmed with start-of-semester preparations
Editor’s note: This is the second part of a two-part series on the return to campus and the start of the school year. To read the first part click here
With the start of the fall, students are moving across East Lansing focused on attending classes, making new friends, and most importantly, finding their niche in Spartan society.
For some, the city and campus appear picture perfect. The grounds are maintained, lecture halls are spotless, dining halls and restaurants offer a wide variety of foods, and now, dorms even offer free laundry.
But in order to prepare for the fall 2013 semester, businesses, city officials and MSU employees were on overdrive, working to make a smooth transition from the slow summer to a bustling community.
Finance junior Peter Kusek, left, and packaging junior Sydney Gort dine Aug. 26, 2013, at El Azteco Restaurant. El Azteco noticed an increase in business for the fall when students return to campus. Khoa Nguyen/The State News
One of the most notable changes on campus revolves around a sudden influx of students. The increase presents challenges for Landscape Services URL&utm_medium=redirect&utm_campaign=Legacy URLs, who put in long hours to get campus ready.
From painting and cleaning all of the residential halls to moving out old furniture, MSU’s Residential and Hospitality Services worked throughout the summer to make an easy transition for the upcoming year.
To assist the thousands of new and returning students, MSU’s residential department invited faculty and staff, alumni and members of the greater Lansing community to come and volunteer to work during move in, said Ashley Chaney, assistant director of communications for Residence Education and Housing Services.
“We usually have a fair amount of volunteers who come help during opening,” Chaney said. “(They) kind of help with everything, from distributing the bins that students use to load stuff up to take up to their rooms, to helping with check in, to elevator operations to helping with traffic and recycling.”
Whether students were dreading the start of the classes or excited for the new semester to begin, MSU facilities departments made sure that lecture halls were clean and ready for the first days of the semester.
Custodial Services URL&utm_medium=redirect&utm_campaign=Legacy URLs manager Brandon Baswell said the department has worked on projects in nearly every building throughout the summer. Mandatory cleanups of the lecture halls that weren’t used and maintained during the summer semester also helped prepare the university for the first week back, he said.
“We’re gearing up for fall, making sure that classes are set, doing all the detailed cleaning to get ready for that,” Baswell said.
With a sharp increase of thousands of students living on campus in a matter of days, MSU’s dining halls have to produce enough food to feed the large student population.
Guy Procopio, the university’s director of Culinary Services, said roughly 1,000 new employees were hired all over campus in dining halls, Sparty’s Convenience Store locations, retails and the MSU Bakery.
The university jumps from an average of 5,000 to 7,000 meals a day during the summer to roughly 35,000 meals during the school year, Procopio said. Besides the drastic increase in returning students, Procopio said extensive planning is required to estimate correct amounts of food and reduce waste.
“It’s a big operation to reopen, but we’re pretty efficient and we do a pretty good job at that,” he said.
Navigating the streets of East Lansing
During the summer, the streets of downtown East Lansing were full of burdensome road blocks and large construction vehicles.
But by the time students returned, a major repaving project along Grand River and Michigan avenues was complete. East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas said the work was necessary to create a more seamless commute in the fall. He said the project also improved safety for pedestrians through updated pathways and street crossings.
Despite these changes, navigating through campus often can be a struggle for incoming students, said Laurie Robinson, director of marketing at Capital Area Transportation Authority, or CATA. To help with the issue, the transportation system created “CATA Guides” to assist students in finding their way.
“Our objective is to engage them by answering questions about campus and off-campus routes, help them gain a sense of confidence and freedom as they use our services, and assist them in planning their day-to-day travels between classes and for extracurricular activities,” Robinson said.
To ensure student safety, Lahanas said East Lansing deploys more officers throughout the city and intensively inspects student housing in preparation for their return.
“Before the fall semester begins, we have additional police available to help make certain that people are safe while out and about, and make sure that they’re celebrating in a safe manner,” Lahanas said.
East Lansing business spike and decline
Before summer comes to a close and textbooks open, several businesses gear up for the enviable influx of students. Student Book Store assistant manager Mike Wylie said that type of preparation can take all summer.
“We’ve got extra registers set up, we do a bigger book check… we hire about 50 to 60 extra people,” Wylie said. “There are 7,000 incoming freshmen that are excited to be here. Whether they’re shopping at our store or out roaming around, we have to make sure we’re prepared.”
Aside from textbooks and supplies, Urban Outfitters manager Maggie Johnson said students seem to be investing in back-to-school apparel as well.
“We look at last year’ s business and how it compared to when the students were in town,” Johnson said. “It’s definitely a huge business… Sales about double.”
Although most East Lansing businesses have seen a spike in business, El Azteco Restaurant Josh Smalley said their restaurant often sees a drop in fall business.
“Outside of preparing for football games, there’s no extra preparation that needs to be done for the fall,” Smalley said. “Our busy season is from right around when school lets out until school starts… We’re the complete opposite than the other restaurants in East Lansing.”