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COVID-19 Updates, News, University News

Full-time, regular staff members still working while following public health guidelines

Essential workers able to continue on campus with new safety measures including PPE, social distancing, rotating shifts

By
Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Employees for Brown Dining Services and the Department of Facilities Management continue to work on a rotating schedule to support those students still living on campus.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the livelihoods of millions of Americans, University staff members have had to adapt to changes in their work schedules and responsibilities. So far, the University has not laid off any full-time or regular staff members according to Vice President of Communications Cass Cliatt. 

For workers still on campus, daily responsibilities have changed since the University canceled in-person classes and many students evacuated College Hill. Employees for Brown Dining Services and the Department of Facilities Management continue to work to support those students still living on campus, but the University has instituted a rotating schedule since less work is needed on a given day. Employees work for one week and have the next week off, but they are still paid for a normal work schedule, Cliatt said.

“I think (the University has) been very responsible,” said Gail McCarthy, Dining Services cashier, checker and clerk. “they’ve had our safety very much in the forefront.” 

But McCarthy misses what her work was like before the pandemic: “It’s so somber, you know. You miss the laughter, the kidding around, you know, the organized chaos. I mean, there’s none of that now.” 

Workers are required to wear protective gear, which the University provides, and maintain social distancing when possible, Cliatt said. Workers who have their own masks can use those as well, McCarthy said. 

“We have masks, gloves, we have to sterilize all the time,” McCarthy said. “You know it feels like the boy in the bubble, like, it just feels like we’re in one of those bubbles and can’t be near anybody.”

Students only have the option of taking food to go, so Dining Services workers put together bags for each meal including a few different food options. Students also get a snack bag once a week. 

“I think we generate some of our enthusiasm off the kids,” McCarthy said. “Now … they can’t see the smile on my face (because of my mask), but hopefully they see the twinkle in my eyes.”

Dining Services workers, who are nearly all permanent employees and have continued to work according to Cliatt, make food to feed the students still on campus as well as to distribute to the Providence community as part of various University initiatives, The Herald previously reported. One of the motivations behind producing meals for the Providence community was to continue to employ Dining Services workers. 

“We know that there’s a need for meals in the community, and at the same time we know that we have a staff … who could actually benefit from continuing to come to work … whether they’re in service of our campus community or in service of our neighboring community beyond College Hill,” Cliatt said. “That was one of the great benefits of this.”

All union workers represented by United Service and Allied Workers of Rhode Island, which represents workers in Facilities Management, Dining Services and the University’s libraries, have also continued in their positions. The University has committed to continue employing and paying these staff members through at least June 30, said union representative Karen McAninch. Permanent employees who could not continue to actively work in their positions, whether due to lack of childcare resources or a need to self-quarantine, are still being paid for the hours they would have worked. 

“These are trying circumstances for everybody,” McAninch said. On the way the University has handled maintaining employment of union workers, she said,  “I think everybody’s fairly positive.”

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  1. Forever Brown says:

    There are no students on campus for all these “essential” workers to serve. In an amazingly selfless act one day in March, Brown sent this healthy, young, resilient, untested but potentially infected population of college kids home to Mom and Dad and Grandma and Grandpa — and away from faculty and administration — as quickly as they could. Gotta save those essential administrators.

    There are no students on campus. In that setting, the notion of “essential workers” and “Brown” is an oxymoron.

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