Staff address student firings at the Leonard Center

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The Leonard Center. Photo by Malcolm Cooke ’21.

Ian Witry, Contributing Writer

On Sept. 16, eight student supervisors, 15 athletic assistants and several lifeguards, all of whom are not student-athletes, received an email terminating their in-person work-study hours at the Leonard Center (LC). The LC limits entry to student-athletes and medical staff. Last week, The Mac Weekly published an article detailing the sudden loss of those student employment positions. 

Athletics Director Donnie Brooks said that the decision to lay off student workers was part of the reality of operating a modified campus due to COVID-19.

“All of these decisions about the best way to operate campus during COVID-19 are interconnected, and we’re working to ensure the communication is holistic rather than done piece by piece,” Brooks wrote in an email to The Mac Weekly. “Unfortunately this meant that we were unable to give the notice we would have liked to. We understand the negative impact this has on students and are grateful for the support that Employment Services is offering.”

In a later email, Brooks clarified that Employment Services is working to help students who were laid-off find other opportunities and access the Macalester Student Unemployment Insurance Program (MSUIP). 

JobX lists that 48 athletic assistant positions and 15 student supervisor positions remain available for student-athletes. The Leonard Center will continue to operate without filling these positions.

“Because we’re at reduced capacity, we have a reduced need,” Brooks said. 

Athletics and other LC staff are assessing the potential of a new workout space for non-student-athletes. This facility would allow them to rehire some of the staff who were recently laid off. 

Director of Employment Services Bob Graf declined to say how much notice students are usually given before being laid off, but noted that this was an unusual situation.

“This was a unique decision, prioritizing community safety, under unique circumstances,” Graf wrote in an email to The Mac Weekly. 

Although being a student-athlete is not usually a prerequisite for a student employment position in the LC, Graf said this decision seemed appropriate for the unusual situation. 

“Given the interconnectedness of decisions aimed at managing the COVID pandemic and the goal of community safety, a decision was made to limit LC employment to student-athletes.”

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