Dining halls spur hiring concerns

Students and Yale dining hall employees said Wednesday that recent conflicts between dining hall workers in front of students have heightened their concerns about University hiring practices.

Dining hall workers and managers said they think loopholes in the disciplinary system make it difficult for managers to keep their employees in check. Ezra Stiles and Morse colleges’ dining hall manager Tom Tropiano said he is concerned about the lack of background checks on and drug tests for employees.

Tropiano said the University conducts no criminal background checks on any of its employees, nor does it conduct any drug tests. Tropiano said he recently caught an employee filling a backpack with goods from the dining hall.

“From a manager’s standpoint, it’s disturbing, because there are people with criminal records who get jobs here,” Tropiano said. “I think we should be having the tightest security and checking all our employees — [Drug testing] is worth it.”

Jeremy Watford ’06, who works in the Jonathan Edwards College dining hall, said he thinks the “convoluted” disciplinary system makes it difficult for managers to correct outbursts, rudeness and even unproductive behavior. Watford — a member of Local 35, the union that represents Yale’s service and maintenance workers — said a certain number of complaints must be filed against an employee before the employee’s indiscretions are taken to a union committee.

Erica Gentry ’05, who works as a student employee in the Ezra Stiles-Morse dining halls, agreed that this lengthy and complicated process makes it difficult for dining hall managers to see disciplinary results from formal complaints they make.

Watford, who worked as a manager at a McDonald’s restaurant for one year, said he was “jaw-dropping” at employees’ “talking back” to the manager during the first few weeks after beginning his job in the dining hall.

“Such behavior would get you fired at any other [restaurant],” Watford said.

Tropiano said that in addition to handling incidents between employees, he must also deal with employees’ drug use and drunkenness. Tropiano said other dining hall employees have expressed feelings of intimidation by co-workers.

Gentry said an ex-dining hall worker recently entered the Stiles-Morse dining hall and demanded to see his girlfriend, who had placed a restraining order on him. She said the man cursed the dining hall manager when he was asked to leave.

“He wasn’t supposed to be in the college; I don’t know how he got in. He was going off in the middle of the dining hall in front of students,” Gentry said.

Tropiano said he has heard from several students about sexual harassment by dining hall employees, but those students are not willing to point out names.

University Secretary Linda Lorimer said a student who feels insecure should go to a dining hall manager as soon as possible to register the concern. She said students should not hesitate to call the University’s human resources department or go to their residential college dean.

“We want to make sure that any issue is investigated immediately,” Lorimer said.

Bob Scott, a cook in the Hall of Graduate Studies dining hall, said the dining hall environment was a “fun” place where both students and employees mingled as workers when he began working for University Dining Services 24 years ago. Scott said most workers then were students.

Scott said he thinks lax hiring policies are unfavorable to both employees and students. He said he thinks the University should improve security measures both in hiring employees and on campus.

“It’s always been tough [to provide security], but I think it’s gotten worse now; there’s more [risk] in the workplace and work force,” Scott said.

The Yale dining halls serve as hubs for student residential college life. Following several student and employee complaints, they are being criticized for not performing proper background checks on employees.
Zoe Pershing-Foley
The Yale dining halls serve as hubs for student residential college life. Following several student and employee complaints, they are being criticized for not performing proper background checks on employees.

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