The MSU Union was many things. A place for students to go to class or study together. A place for getting together with friends to eat. A place for different groups to hold events or sales. For many, however, the Union was a workplace.
Following the shooting that took place in the Union and Berkey Hall on Feb. 13, the Union has been closed indefinitely. This has displaced many students workers employed at Spartan Spirit Shop, the Sparty's Cafe and the Union's food court, commonly called The Roost.
Chief Communications Officer of Student Life and Engagement Kat Cooper said MSU is in the process of relocating workers who previously were employed in the Union. Apart from the MSU Federal Credit Union, all of the businesses housed in the Union are owned and operated by MSU. Cooper said she is not sure how many workers will be displaced because of the Union's indefinite closure.
“The team members who work in all of those spaces, we’re currently working with them to reassign them to other areas if that’s what they need,” Cooper said. “We know that especially our student team members are relying on their income, but they may not want to go back into that space, even when it does reopen.”
Spartan Spirit Shop clerk and social relations and policy junior Abraham Frank said workers were told the Union would be closed at least until March 13 and that spirit shop workers should look for work elsewhere or work at another spirit shop location on campus.
Frank said he was offered a security and greeter role at the Breslin after expressing his interest in looking for other work.
Spartan Spirit Shop clerk and clinical social work masters' student Alyssa Fisher expressed concerns about there not being enough open jobs on campus to which they could relocate.
“I actually have two other jobs,” Fisher said. “I think I’m feeling okay, I’m feeling fortunate enough to not have to force myself to look for another student employment position. I don’t think there are too many available positions.”
Frank also said he was thinking about how many workers would be needed elsewhere on campus.
“I’m also thinking… there were over 10 people on the schedule,” Frank said. “There’s not enough demand for the other locations for that many workers.”
Job relocation efforts come in part as a coping mechanism for student workers who may feel uncomfortable returning to the Union for employment.
“It would certainly be really difficult going back in the Union in any capacity,” Frank said. “It’s more about being in the space than (specifically) the job, because I enjoyed a lot of that job. I enjoyed working there, I enjoyed my coworkers.”
Cooper said she understands each worker at the Union will have their own timeline for reacting to the shooting and that the Union management would “try and honor that the best we can to help people through this.”
Frank and Fisher said they have received support from their managers at the Spartan Spirit Shop.
“Our direct managers have been absolutely amazing throughout this,” Fisher said. “They’ve been absolutely amazing in being there for us in every single aspect, and they’ve provided the ways to do everything…Definitely couldn’t ask for anything else from them.”
Despite the difficulties and traumas workers may have experienced in the Union, Frank said he would consider returning to the Union for work.
“I would definitely consider going back,” Frank said. “I like the environment and bosses, my coworkers … I think it was a good job. I’m disappointed that I don’t know when I can go back or what that would look like.”
Cooper said a decision over when to reopen the Union has not been made, citing issues around the damage sustained during the shooting as well as other considerations.
"We need to repair the damage and then we need to figure out as a community when the right time and place is for it to reopen," Cooper said.
Fisher said she will continue to hold positive memories of the Union.
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“As tough as this is and as sad as it is… I would never want everything that happened to kind of stop me from living my life and impact how I finish my time at MSU,” Fisher said. “I’ve spent so much time in the Union over the past five years … I think it would be really sad to let that be a place of sadness for the rest of time, and to remember it that way instead of how my time has been in it for the past five years.”
MSU Union Director Cathy Fitzpatrick, Union Facilities manager Celia Cosme-Brooks and Spirit Shop manager Molly Chrome were not available for comment at time of publication.
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