Story by Elizabeth Walztoni, Reporter
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Walztoni
As patrons of Wege Cafeteria, it can be easy to forget the many people involved in preparing the food we eat every day. Even less likely for us to notice is that these numbers are growing smaller. Wege has had problems with maintaining staffing levels for years, according to many sources who asked to remain anonymous. By the end of the academic year, one worker shared, employees usually number around 15 — down from upwards of 30 at the start. The Corner and the Moose do not share this problem, however. So why won’t people work at Wege?
Part of the problem is the nature of dining halls themselves. Corner and Moose workers cook to order, rather than preparing food in bulk. Cleanup and dishwashing is also much easier on a smaller scale. Neither do they have hundreds of students to deal with at once. One Wege employee described being treated poorly by students at times — dismissed at best, or harassed at worst.
Furthermore, patrons frequently neglect cleaning up after themselves, leaving plates, food and other messes to be taken care of by workers. Cleaning responsibilities are more significant than in other dining areas on campus, both in size and scope.
In the words of one Wege worker, “The things you don’t like about eating at Wege are the things you don’t like about being an employee there.”
Despite its relative difficulty, there is a limited reward for the work. The cafeteria pays minimum wage ($8.90 an hour in Michigan) with no opportunity for a raise. The college has apparently been lobbied for a wage increase before, to no avail. Especially by the end of the year, when the workforce is reduced, an employee described the situation as “minimum wage for more than minimum work.”
Things are not all bad, however. Workers appreciated the convenience of an on-campus job, making getting to work quick and easy, especially between classes. The schedule is flexible, another positive compared to the majority of off-campus job opportunities. Like any work experience, Wege makes a valuable resume addition. The free food was also listed as a plus. Finally, familiarity with the environment and coworkers can make the transition easy, and helps it fit into one’s everyday life.
As in any situation, there are positives and negatives to a job at Wege. “It is what you make of it,” in the words of one employee, be that good or bad. If you are interested in a job with campus dining, visit their office on the second floor of Wege Center, 202.