Wednesday, October 20, 2021

'Now what?': Furloughed RHS student employees react, worry about financial stability

September 29, 2020
Carly Lize, former Michigan State University North Neighborhood Facilities employee in Wells Hall on Monday, September 29, 2020. (Di'Amond Moore)
Carly Lize, former Michigan State University North Neighborhood Facilities employee in Wells Hall on Monday, September 29, 2020. (Di'Amond Moore) —

Following the decision to furlough more than 700 MSU Residential and Hospitality Services, or RHS, student employees, those laid off said they were left frustrated, unemployed and unsure how to pay rent. 

RHS student employees were notified Monday that beginning Oct. 4, they would be furloughed. This gave student team members 12 days to figure out new employment. 

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the toll it has taken on university finances led to this decision, the notification said. 

English senior Carly Lize said she was frustrated when she was furloughed from her position at RHS facilities in North Neighborhood, a job she has had for about four years. 

"I usually would rely on that job to pay my rent and pay for my groceries," Lize said. "I work another job on campus, but luckily that one was okay. I needed both jobs to be able to make rent, so I was panicked at first." 

Lize said her coworkers relied on their RHS jobs to pay their rent, too. 

Student team members will remain active as RHS employees however, RHS does not have an expected rehire date at this time, according to the notification. 

"I think I'm really frustrated," Lize said. "It feels like a lack of care for students on the part of MSU."

Integrative studies in social science junior Jenny Olivarez and psychology senior Anthony Foreman returned to campus because of their employment with RHS. 

However on Monday, Olivarez was furloughed from her service center representative position in South Neighborhood. 

"My first reaction was 'OK, now what?' because this was also a lot of the reason why I even decided to come back to Lansing," Olivarez said.

Olivarez had been working for South Neighborhood for about three years. 

"That was my only job," Olivarez said. "I do have some savings but definitely not enough to keep me going throughout at least this year, including rent and tuition. So, now that means either I need to file for unemployment because I won't have any income, or if I can find a job quicker then hopefully that will be the best case scenario." 

Students may not have returned to East Lansing if they knew they wouldn't have a job, Olivarez said.

The notification also cited the lack of students on campus as a reason for the furlough. 

"I do enjoy working within South Neighborhood," Olivarez said. "Overall, the people are really good. ... I think it's just a little unprofessional that they didn't really give us a heads up and now that we're all here ... everybody's already in their leases. Maybe people wouldn't have moved back if they knew that they weren't going to have a job." 

Foreman was a Spartan Spirit Shop employee for about a year before he was furloughed Monday. This is the second job he has had trouble with through the university, he said. 

"I was supposed to be a RA starting this semester," Foreman said. "But when MSU went to all students being online, I was basically out of that job." 

Spartans were also given abrupt notification of limited on-campus housing and the decision to hold nearly all classes remotely

In order to keep the same benefits associated with a RA position, such as free housing and dining, Foreman was offered a position as a university peer mentor. His furlough from the Spartan Spirit Shop was the second change in employment he experienced recently. 

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"I feel like this isn't the right reaction," Foreman said. "But at this point, it is what it is because of the situation that happened with my RA position (and) what's been going on in the world with COVID anyway, with my personal life ... what friends and family members have gone through. It's just another thing that we have to deal with." 

Foreman said he is not in a bad financial situation; however, the furlough has made him worry about car insurance, credit card payments and gas. 

“Students have been put on the back burner by the university for a little bit now," Foreman said. 

"The students who are trying to work and provide as much as they can to the university as possible, it just seems like they're pushed to the side and figured out later," Foreman said. "I just hope that communication, from top to bottom, throughout MSU gets better after this whole experience and that plans are actually in place to support the students better when situations like this, or decisions like this, are made." 


This article is part of our Information Overload print edition. View the entire issue here.

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