BYU student employees adjust to job changes during COVID-19 closures

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Leer en español: Los empleados estudiantiles se adaptan a los cierres a causa del COVID-19

CougarEat employees help customers in a mostly empty Chick-fil-la line on Friday, March 20, 2020. CougarEat employees are among the thousands of BYU student employees affected by COVID-19-related closures on campus. (Preston Crawley)

The status of student employment is one of the many concerns surrounding COVID-19-related closures on campus and the university’s encouragement to students to consider returning home for the remainder of the winter semester and continuing their studies remotely.

The BYU Human Resources Department released a statement addressing the situation following the university’s issuance of safety measures to help protect the community and slow the spread of COVID-19.

Some students will choose to stay and work, raising questions on how this may impact on-campus student employment. BYU Student Employment Manager Jenifer Jarvis said the fluid environment may affect the types of jobs available on campus.

“We sent out a form to hiring managers to let us know if they need jobs, or if they have asked for student employees,” Jarvis said. “We’re just going to take it a day at a time and try to figure it out, but currently, we do have places for students to work on campus.”

Natalie Neale, a sophomore from San Diego, has worked as an office assistant for the Cougareat since September 2019. She said the COVID-19-related closures on campus haven’t resulted in a shortage of work at the Cougareat.

“A lot of the employees have gone home and there’s actually been a need for more help,” Neale said.

Cougareat employees have been jumping between restaurants and filling in where work is needed. They’ve also taken the opportunity to deep clean the kitchens.

“Even though all the restaurants haven’t stayed open at this time, the Cougareat has been awesome at making sure everyone has options for other jobs,”  Neale said.

BYU Office of Information and Technology worker, Karen Duersch, transitioned from working in the office every day to working remotely. Duersch, a junior studying family history and genealogy, flew home to be with her family the day after BYU announced classes would be moved to remote instruction. 

“It was a really quick turnaround,” Duersch said. 

Along with taking remote classes, Duersch works on her computer from her parent’s home in Pennsylvania. 

“We clock in and have a zoom room we all go to,” Duersch said. “It’s like we’re in the same room because we have instant access to each other.”

While the transition has been effective, Duersch said she’s been feeling nervousness and confusion about the suddenness of events. At the same time, she knows the university is doing its part to ensure student employees are taken care of.

“We’ve been working together to make sure everyone is OK and has supplies to be able to work from home,” Duersch said. “There’s also been a lot of outreach from supervisors and managing directors to make sure everyone is able to perform their job.”

William Goldsberry, a senior studying animation, has worked as a custodian at the BYU Museum of Art (MOA) since August of last year. The MOA temporarily closed until further notice.

“Normally part of my job is to walk through the galleries, check benches and other spaces people are around and pick up trash,” Goldsberry said. “With the museum closed, I don’t have to do any of that, so it’s more cleaning the backstage areas.”

Goldsberry said amid the uncertainty of how student employment will be affected in the coming weeks, his concern lies with his fellow custodial employees more than himself.

“I’m wondering how things will work out for everyone,” Goldsberry said.

Jarvis said if current student employees have questions or concerns, they can contact their department. Prospective student employees can search listings on the Y Jobs website or give the employment office a call.

Changes in student employment are one of many adjustments the university is making in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

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