Stillings dining hall closed due to labor shortage


Melanie Matts

DURHAM, NH—The national labor crisis is hitting close to home at the University of New Hampshire (UNH). Hospitality and Campus Service sectors are failing to meet needed staff levels forcing the delayed opening of Stillings dining hall, one of the three main dining halls on the Durham campus. 

An email sent out on Aug. 23. by Chief Operating Officer and VP for Administration, Christopher Clement said, “The national labor crisis, particularly in the hospitality field, is being felt at UNH. In order to maintain the excellent quality, service and value the university’s dining program is known for, the decision has been made to delay the opening of Stillings Dining Hall. This will allow us to focus the existing workforce on Holloway Commons and Philbrook Dining Hall while aggressive hiring and recruiting efforts continue. We are committed to opening Stillings Dining Hall as soon as the necessary staffing levels are met.” 

With Stillings being closed, staff members have been redistributed to the remaining two dining halls: Holloway Commons and Philbrook Dining Hall. 

Executive Director of Hospitality & Campus Services, Bill McNamara said in an email interview, “In an effort to provide the best programming possible for our guests, this difficult decision allowed dining to redistribute the existing Stillings workforce, including full, part-time, and student associates, into our two largest dining locations.” 

With one of the three dining halls unavailable, Holloway Commons and Philbrook are experiencing a lot more student traffic and large crowds than they typically would. 

Morgan Bowles, a junior at UNH said, “I love that the dining halls are fully back to normal because I’m able to bounce back and forth from station to station. But the problem is, because Stillings is now closed, the dining hall is extremely packed making it difficult to move around, and also raises COVID concerns.” 

Masks are not required inside dining halls. As of the Aug. 6. COVID-19 guidelines sent out in an email by President James W. Dean Jr., masks are only required in classrooms, labs/offices where people are close to one another for more than a few minutes, highly congested places, and elevators when riding with other people. 

 “The dining hall crowds are one thing, but the fact that nobody is wearing masks while self-serving food makes me very concerned for our safety COVID wise,” said UNH junior Cassandra Eppler. 

Hospitality and Campus Services are doing their best to increase staff levels in hopes of eventually opening Stillings back up.  

“Full recruiting efforts continue, including job fairs, sign-on bonuses for full and part-time staff, UNH employee referral bonuses and wage improvements,” said McNamara. 

Erin Poulin, a sophomore student employee at Philbrook dining hall said, “I personally like working at the dining hall and wish we were getting some more people who wanted to and were able to work at the UNH dining halls.” 

As of now, there is no set date scheduled to re-open Stillings.  

“We endeavor to reopen Stillings as soon as staffing levels allow for consistent, quality programming,” said McNamara.  

All Hospitality and Campus Services full, part-time and student openings can be found here

Photo courtesy of the University of New Hampshire.