UWM 'volunteers' for dining halls sought, staff email shows

For the first time in 25 years, there's a new dining program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Students can eat any time and as many times as they'd like across the three dining halls. There's just one problem. The school doesn't have enough employees. 

On Friday, Sept. 2, the school administrators sent faculty and staff an email asking them to volunteer their time to cook and serve food and help clean up those dining halls.

On Labor Day, the head of the union for faculty and staff called the effort insulting.

Owen Griffith and Kailan Patel have only been on campus for a week.

"All you can eat," said Griffith. "You can take food back to your dorm, have it for a late-night snack."

They said they like the food options and the anytime dining plan, but they said Monday they've already been turned away at a dining hall.

"We just decided to go to see if they had any food or anything, but they're like, 'Oh, we don't. We ran out of food,'" said Patel. "They are understaffed. He was like, 'We're trying to get more staff.'"

Eric Lohman 

University administrators sent an email to faculty and staff on Friday, first explaining the program addresses a critical issue for many students -- food insecurity. Then, journalism lecturer Eric Lohman noticed something else.

"I was livid about it," said Lohman.

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Teachers were asked to fill in as volunteers.

"Rather than figuring out a way to hire more workers to fill those roles, they simply asked us to do it for free without overtime pay," said Lohman.

Lohman is president of the union, representing faculty and staff at UWM. He said instructors are all for volunteering to help those in need while calling on school leaders to fix the problem instead of causing another.

"There is a solution to this problem," said Lohman. They could hire workers to work in the residence dining halls by paying them better wages and giving them better benefits, but they don't."

FOX6 News reached out to UWM Monday for comment but did not hear back.

Lohman said the union doesn't plan to give in, though he said he wouldn't be surprised if some staff members do volunteer to help.