Athens, Ga. – Several points in Lee Shearer’s Nov. 23 article in the Athens Banner-Herald, “Group Reviews UGA Temp Firings,” warrant correction or further clarification.
Temporary employees are typically employed for terms of service that run for the academic year only, from September through May. These employees perform duties that are not needed in the summer months when demand for food services is greatly reduced. They completed the term of their employment in May and, due to increased demand for employment from our student body in August, were not offered new positions.
It is Food Services’ preference to hire student workers for these positions whenever possible. There are two reasons for this practice: 1) it helps our students; and 2) their schedules more closely align with the academic schedule that drives customer demand. Temporary workers augment the student work force when Food Services does not have enough student interest in the positions to fill them. This year more students than ever applied for the positions and are working in campus dining halls. Correspondingly, the number of temporary workers needed for this academic year has dropped from 180 in fall 2007 to 125.
Food Services currently employs approximately 300 full-time employees. Open permanent positions often are filled with applicants from the temporary work force. For example, 68 percent of our new permanent non-administrative hires made over the last two years have come from the ranks of our temporary staff. Some employees prefer the temporary positions for a variety of reasons-e.g., child care in the summer-and do not apply for permanent posts. A total of 30 workers have been employed by Food Services in temporary positions for three or more years.
Food Services’ top priority is, and always will be, serving students, and if campus employment is needed to help them to be able to meet their expenses and remain in school, then we are pleased to be able to provide that opportunity. Of this year’s student workforce, 35 percent are minority employees, reflecting an even greater diversity than that found among our student body. Any remaining positions-after student demand for employment is met-are offered to the most qualified candidates from the local community.
Therefore, as has been explained, the decision not to offer re-employment to these temporary employees was certainly not motivated by race, but rather by demand and job availability.