College Rec Hiring, Staffing During the Pandemic

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Nirsa Article Line LogoDuring so-called “normal” times — that is, before the COVID-19 pandemic — the University of Minnesota’s Recreation and Wellness Department employed about 700 students. By the time campus recreation facilities reopened in the summer of 2020 with limited programming and capacity, the number of student staff members had dwindled to what associate department director Lisa Stephenson calls “the bare minimum.” And many of them were tasked with rigorous equipment cleaning and the unenviable responsibility of enforcing face mask policies. They also helped oversee new socially distanced intramurals activities such as badminton and cornhole.

“We’re still in the ramping-up phase, as far as returning to programming and bringing back student staff,” Stephenson says, 18 months after the University of Minnesota campus shut down in March 2020. “We’ve been able to attract students back to work, but our facility usage is only at about 65 percent of what it would usually be at this time of year.”

The biggest challenge, according to Stephenson and her campus recreation colleagues around the country, is finding enough students willing to work — especially when off-campus employers might be offering better wages.

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