University of Montana students Taylor Coon and Max Schmitt finish the first day of spring semester on Jan. 13, 2020, by purchasing textbooks at the UM bookstore. Roughly 20 bookstore employees will be impacted by personal hour cuts and reduced weekly operating hours for the rest of the semester, as classes move online starting March 23.

UM bookstore staff members will be paid fewer hours after spring break because of the University’s move to remote class instruction.

Employees were notified via email on Thursday, March 12, that while the bookstore will still be open while classes are being taught remotely, it will have to make cuts because there will be fewer students, faculty and staff on campus. Starting March 23, UM classes will be suspended on campus and taught online.

“Although we will remain open during this time, this decision inadvertently and negatively affects the work hours we are able to provide you. Sadly, we do not anticipate the need for any additional help outside of our current managerial staff,” the email read.

General manager Michael Corbin said that while staff members’ hours could be reduced to zero, the bookstore is not officially firing staff members. He said that all of the roughly 20 bookstore employees will be impacted, including personal hour cuts and reduced weekly operating hours at the store.

The decision to curtail hours was made in partnership with Barnes & Noble College, which has operated The Bookstore since 2018, to protect sales. Corbin said that because fewer people will walk through the store and the University because of UM’s decision to move to online courses, the bookstore expects sales to drop.

Corbin said employees who haven’t left Missoula for spring break are working, and the bookstore is trying to do everything it can to keep staff paid. Corbin said there isn’t a planned date for when employee hours will return to normal.

UM senior Tyheed Stevens said he felt the pressure of losing his job building up prior to the announcement. He said managers had discussed the possibility that employees would lose their jobs before last week. Stevens said he plans on graduating this semester and feels blessed that he was in good financial standing when he heard the news.

“It sucks,” Stevens said. “But I’ve been planning to get out of that job anyway. It was only a matter of time.”

Bookstore employee Shae Warren agreed with Stevens. She was hired in January as a temporary employee, so the news didn’t hit her as hard, she said. While the job isn’t her primary source of income, the money she made working at the bookstore helped pay off student loans.

“I didn’t think the threat of an illness would affect my employment,” Warren said. “That was just nerve-wracking in a way.”