Blisters on Your Hands and Food Thrown in Your Face: Interview with an Anonymous Student Worker at Dining

By Brianna Aguilar

The dining in Berea gets complaints from students for many reasons, but what is many times ignored is their treatment of student staff. For the sake of privacy, the identity of the interviewee has been kept anonymous, but it is important their story be shared.

BA: How is dining? How is it working there and how are you treated?

Anonymous: Supervisor-wise, I never see them. When I do, they’re telling me I’m doing something wrong. 

We don’t get breaks anymore. We used to get breaks every four hours but now they have everyone scheduled for under four hours, so no one gets a break. They’ll schedule us for three and a half hours, two and a half hours, three hours, and that’s it. 

In the dish room, there’s always water on the floor, so you’re always slipping. They have slips that go on your shoes, but they’re only made for size 14 shoes. The small shoe slips are still two of my feet, and I’ve told them multiple times that they don’t fit me. They just tell me to be careful. When I inevitably fall, they yell at me. I get bruises down my whole arm sometimes. Also, I have a new phone now but before, I kept cracking my glass screen because I’ll be the only one back there. I fall at least five times a shift.

The dish machine is almost 200 degrees. They give us plastic gloves to take out the dishes by hand, and some of the dishes are the three-inch-thick pizza pans that are pure metal, so we all get blisters on our hands. Last semester when they still scheduled us for four hours, I would be there for four or four and a half hours and when I would get off, my hands would be red and sore. But when I complain, they say to use a rag, but they never put rags in the dish room.

I’m also overscheduled. Right now, I’m at twenty-four hours every two weeks. Some people, including me, are so overscheduled that they started doing meetings every other week to give us fewer meeting hours but still make us work the other remaining hours.

BA: How are your other coworkers? Are they okay?

Anonymous: Last semester was bad. There were full-time guys that would come by, and they were rude and aggressive. I’ve had one throw food at my face and call me a “bitch” and a “slut” on multiple occasions. One time, I walked in front of him and accidentally cut him off because I didn’t see him. I was running to get rags, so I could take the pans and he started screaming, “Bitch! Fuck you, bitch. You fucking whore” and having self-respect, I assumed he wasn’t talking about me because I thought surely no one would talk to me like that. He was talking to me. 

He has also thrown fries fresh out of the oil at me, at my face. He would pick them up with the tongs because they were hot, and he would throw them at me from across the room. I know he isn’t there anymore, but last semester, he threw a lot of food at me. 

There was also a time I almost got a labor violation for leaving my shift a bit early due to a family emergency. I was threatened with this violation by my supervisor who had left her shift early to go smoke without telling anyone. I told a full-time staff member and couldn’t find my supervisor, so I just left due to the nature of the emergency and told the staff member that I’d be gone the next shift. When I finally came in on Monday, my supervisor said I may be getting a labor violation for leaving a bit early. In the end, she never talked to me about it again, so I assumed I did not get the labor violation. I did, however, get a bad score on my labor evaluation for missing that bit of my shift, even though I emailed early in the morning saying that I couldn’t make the closing shift that night. 

BA: Have you ever tried to get out of dining, and how did that go?

Anonymous: Only once, but it didn’t work. Other than that, I just go to my shifts because either way, the work falls back on me. I honestly don’t even know who to talk to because they isolate us from the Labor Department. I don’t even know who to email about it. There was one person who tried to get out of dining because they got severely injured and whoever they were emailing kept trying to put up a fight and not let them switch out of dining. They had to go to the ER because of their injury but they still were not allowed to switch. 

BA: How can we fix these issues?

Anonymous: Honestly, at this point, there needs to be an investigation. They need to make sure we’re safe. We need slips for our shoes in the dish room. We need actual gloves to take out 200-degree metal pans. We need breaks, and we need to not get yelled at when we have actual emergencies and can’t come into work. 

BA: Is there anything else you would like to say before I end this interview?

Anonymous: Yes. Last semester, the dishwasher reused the same water to wash all the dishes. We also put the mats from the floor in that dishwasher to be washed, so all the dishes were washed in dirty water. We have a new dishwasher now that uses new water to wash the dishes every time. There was also another instance where the ice cream machine broke because someone dropped a dirty dish rag in there. It froze and broke the machine. 

*Something not discussed in this interview but proves to be an issue in dining is the hair often found in the food, from the prepared hot food to the salad bar. 

12 responses to “Blisters on Your Hands and Food Thrown in Your Face: Interview with an Anonymous Student Worker at Dining”

  1. Dining has changed so much since the semester I worked there. It used to be a calm, safe work environment and I loved the dishroom. There NEEDS to be an investigation because this is absolutley horrid. People should be talking about this.

  2. I work in dining, and this is EXTREMELY dramatized. Absolutely, there are issues with dining, but not to this extent. I work in the dish room nearly everyday by choice. The dish room is ALWAYS stocked with rags if you wish to use them to remove dishes from the dish machine, and when it isn’t, they’re easily available in other parts of the kitchen. The shoe covers they provided were suitable for a bunch of different foot sizes, but no one took them. No one wanted them. As for supervisors, I’m typically able to find someone within the first 20-30 minutes of being at work. Dining is not perfect, but it is is certainly not this bad.

    • Honestly, I would not at all be surprised if this was one of the staff members trying to cover up their awful behavior by gaslighting the interviewed individual about their experiences/trying to cover their ass.

      On the very small chance you actually *are* a student worker, just because you managed to be one of the lucky people that doesn’t get treated badly does not negate what others have went through. It doesn’t surprise me you seem to support dining’s awful actions and their disgusting food, considering your apparent love of the taste of boot polish.

      • If you think anyone who works at dining as full time staff gives a enough of a shit to go online and pretend to be a student then I have news for you. They have better things to do, like figure out how to feed 1,400 students who all have the same lunch time when they only have a staff of like 10-15 people at a time. Think about it.

  3. I work in dining. I have to admit it does have its down but honestly I’m probably going to stay there for next semester. It is hard work but some jobs are hard. Yes some of the pans are hot but if you feel uncomfortable in a spot then you can talk to the supervisor. I absolutely love the supervisor i work with and i would possibly go to her if i had personal issues. The shoe slips do not fit extremely small feet but literally nobody wears them anyways. We used to work 3 hours and get breaks and now it’s switched to 4. Still yet this seems a little dramatic. Some people have different experiences but honestly it’s not that bad. A bunch of people don’t even show up to work, also nobody gets in sever trouble for missing. I missed a week being in the hospital, I’m behind on hours, and I have been sent home for being sick. I haven’t been yelled at or anything, all that was said that i should talk Labor to fix where i was in the hospital and they said i can make up hours whenever i need. The supervisor are not bad people at all.

  4. Also as someone who is currently working in dining. This is so dramatic. Yes the shoes does not fit some sizes me for example but I have a really small foot. Their are towels in the dish room. The supervisors are so sweet. I talk to one of them all the time even when I go to dining just to eat. They have let me leave early before because I didn’t feel good. If I don’t understand how to do a task they show me how. Also they told us if we needed to step away for a moment and get a snack or a drink it was okay. They have also said MANY times if you are uncomfortable working somewhere they will move you.

  5. I feel that there are so many other issues to do with dining that are more significant. Having not been on campus before the pandemic began, I can’t speak for how dining has changed, but the second I got here I realized some issues first hand. The food is agreeably not satisfying, not tasteful, and unclean. There are very few options for people with food anxiety or eating restrictions, such as vegetarian, vegan, paleo, keto, etc. When I applied to this school, I was under the impression (along with MANY others) that our food options would be, at the least, better quality and inclusive of all diets. That is not the case, point, blank, period. As for the working conditions of dining, I’m sorry but suck it up. No break for three hours of work? What’s the big deal? Shorter shifts? Hell yeah, in my opinion. As for coworker mishaps, you will find that anywhere you work, ever. People have their own stories and act the way they do, and you cant do anything about it. Tell someone. You don’t know who to talk to? Figure it out yourself! Sure, I hate it that this person has felt so much disparity in their labor position, but not all jobs are for everyone.

  6. If you are experiencing any sort of work safety issue at Berea, I would strongly urge you to reach out directly to Mike Morris and Leslie Kaylor within the Environmental health and safety department. Mike is OSHA certified and can conduct investigations regarding unsafe conditions

  7. Yeah. Is it really like this? I work in grounds, never dining?

  8. Can we talk about how several folks have already gotten sick from eating dining food?

  9. I graduated in the pandemic and had to work in dining afterwards since it was the only place hiring. The stories I could tell about this place. Feel free to reach out if you’re ever curious

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