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The Dartmouth
June 17, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

DDS, restaurants face worker shortage

The Dartmouth Dining Services student workforce has halved this term -- from its norm of 200 to 225 student employees to 100 -- causing increased pressure on full-time employees and reductions in services, according to DDS Director Tucker Rossiter. Downtown Hanover is also experiencing this phenomenon, as its restaurant managers say they are facing a shortage of employment applicants.

Student Employment Office Director Donna Desjardins explained, "It's an employee market because of the robust economy, and employment at all levels is impacted. People looking for jobs can be selective."

Rossiter attributed the disinterest in working for dining services to the myriad jobs available on campus and the financial stability of many students, which alleviates the necessity of work-study.

The shortage "limits the level of service we can provide, and the service tends to be less than what students expect and we hope to provide," he said.

Local restaurants have also felt the crunch. Eleven of 13 store managers contacted by The Dartmouth said they are seeking employees. The Dirt Cowboy Caf changed its closing time from midnight to 6 p.m. last week due to a lack of labor, according to owner Tom Guerra.

"It's been tight for years," Guerra explained. "I'd still question lengthening hours if I got new labor because it's stressful training people who are then quitting. It'd only be a couple of months till we'd hit another wall."

Panda House Manager Vincent Wu said he has not resorted to reducing hours, but spent near $3,000 on advertising in his efforts to find front-desk workers for the restaurant. Regular service has continued, Wu said, only because he works the needed shifts.

Of DDS specifically, the reduction in services due to the lack of employees "has been frustrating this year," said Basil Kim '01. "You think things will be the same, but the amount of food and services available have changed. When you go to Food Court late at night, this year it's just the grill. When I've gone to Lone Pine, there's only desserts and drinks and one or two people working. People who are used to the old options are surprised."

Food Court Head Grill Cook Harold Mossey, a 14-year veteran of DDS, said, "There are a lot less students, which puts more work on the regular employees. We double up on just about everything and a few of us are out on short-term disability because of the extra work."

Mossey partly blamed DDS management for the shortage. "It's time for them to stop and look and start giving the kids what they work for. A student should get a good wage. You're doing the same work -- you're hired help -- so you should get paid for it."

DDS Personnel Administrator Kelly Mousley had a different view of the merits of working for dining services. "The benefits here are good," she said, citing as proof an employee dining discount program, flexible scheduling, high salaries and a management promotion program.

To combat the shortage, Mousley said, "We're trying different recruitment strategies and advertising these good benefits, and considering lowering the hour requirement from 12 to 10 a week. We're not going to turn students away."

Rossiter assured, "We have no intention of cutting back on services. In fact, we are offering two new services this year -- the Novack Caf and Weekend Express in Collis. And as the [Student Life Initiative] progresses, the new dining facilities can be constructed in ways to better utilize the space without the need of as much workforce as Thayer needs."

Rossiter also cautioned against premature judgment of the shortage. "We think a lot of first-years will sign up after they have accustomed themselves, and we're taking steps to increase our full-time staff to offset the lack of student employees," he said.

"I've been in touch with my colleagues at Ivy Leagues and other schools, and there seems to be a trend away from dining jobs; Dartmouth isn't unique in this situation. In the late '80s we went through a similar trend but it rebounded."

Desjardins, like Rossiter, attributed the disparity between jobs offered and jobs sought to the "robust economy, which led to the burgeoning of employment opportunities."

However, she disputed the identification of an overall shortage of students working. "It's a generalized myth that students aren't working. They are. I can safely say that we've been experiencing an upward trend in the number of positions available each term.

"The flip side to the coin is that with that amount of work out there, people can be selective, and in DDS's case, students don't normally think of dining as a place for development of leadership skills, which it is, so DDS isn't tapped into for opportunities."

Desjardins shied from calling the employee-driven job market a trend, as the 6-year-old SEO does not yet track the campus job market in full. She said this term's shift may in fact be an isolated product of "recent growth on campus."

"As a result of Berry Library there are over 100 new positions. The people who would have worked at DDS may be at the library, but I can't say, since we don't have tracking data."