NEWS

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October 27, 2004

New dorm may use B-J mess hall despite past problems

Though Vice President and Dean of Students Stephen Klass will soon present tentative plans to revamp the Burton-Judson (B-J) dining hall at Thursday's trustees meeting, questions remain as to whether the old building is fit to serve a new dorm.

"Our conceptual planning calls for a combination of renovation and expansion of the existing dining facilities," Klass said in an e-mail interview. "The main dining rooms would hold approximately 525 seats, and we are proposing an additional retail dining location with 119 seats that might have a small convenience store-like component to it," Klass said.

But the existing B-J dining hall has a history of problems, possibly related to its old age. The dining hall was closed for a weekend last spring when health department officials discovered mouse feces and carcasses on glue traps in the kitchen. A week after B-J finally passed re-inspection by the health department, there were still sightings of cockroaches, the maroon reported last March.

Even administration officials concede that the building's old age exacerbates these problems. "B-J was built in 1931, and there are various structures, no longer in use, that create a greater risk of infestation," Deputy Dean Cheryl Gutman said last March.

She said in an e-mail interview this week that the University responded to the health violations by making repairs and restructuring some staff behavior. "There were no major renovations made or required, but there were several places that needed what amounts to repair," she said.

Administrators used two strategies to solve the pest infestation problem. Gutman said the "cure" involved better cleaning—revising the cleaning schedule and putting more people on cleaning and training—and closing up points of entry for pests. She said that solid wood paneling was installed to prevent pest entry.

Gutman listed several minor problems: Peeling paint in a food storage area, a missing sneeze guard over the dessert displays, and an empty paper towel dispenser next to the sink. All of these problems have been fixed, Gutman said.

Gutman cited several methods used to alleviate staff hygiene concerns. Previously, employees were less consistent about changing gloves after leaving their serving areas. The dining hall management has increased employee training, written more explicit rules, and paid closer attention to unit managers with the most problems, Gutman said.

"A ‘cross-training' program was implemented from last year to this—moving managers around—to combat what I call semi-jokingly as ‘seeing' fatigue," Gutman said. "The idea is that if one works in the same facility for years, one begins to fail to see things that are wrong."

Klass was vague about the improvements. "Most of our responses to the noted violations last year came in the form of ensuring that certain practices on the part of staff were in force at all times and not just sporadically as observed by the health inspectors," Klass said.

Though the administration maintained that the dining hall has improved, student opinion was mixed. All students interviewed by the Maroon ate in B-J last year.

Tomi Akanbi, a second-year in the College, said she has seen improvements in the dining hall. "I've noticed that they're trying to add special things like flying in that chef and serving omelets all day," she said.

Some students have not noticed any changes since last year. "I don't think anyone's seen any bugs or rat feces that I know of. I've never really been concerned; you just realize that that happens in places," said second-year in the College Leslie Kruempel. "No rat poop in my food yet."

Second-year in the college Kevin Bensley said he hasn't seen any differences since last year.

Third-year in the College Mihai Sturdza, who has eaten in B-J for three years, said he actually hopes the dining hall has another problem. "I have to admit that I've been rooting for something else bad to happen so they have another one of those filet mignon dinners," he said.

Sturdza also noted that a friend had found white slime on a cup, making him nervous about the staff's cleaning methods.

John, a second-year in the College who refused to give his last name, doubted claims that the dining hall had improved since last year. "It seems that they haven't really changed the food items per se, but they've made it more presentable. You're sort of duped into thinking it's higher quality," he said.