University Police officers interviewed J Street and GW Bookstore employees last month about their involvement in violence and threats, raising questions about the quality of campus services and training.
A student reported to UPD March 1 that a bookstore employee had threatened to hit her March 1.
“Obviously, it’s an isolated incident, but it should never happen also,” said Nancy Haaga, director of auxiliary and institutional services.
J Street service, however, has borne the brunt of student frustration. Two J Street employees were involved in a physical confrontation with each other in February that left one woman in need of medical attention. In response, the University revised many of its training programs to emphasize customer service, said Director of Dining Services Rawn Burnett.
“We are training employees monthly to put the customer first,” Burnett said. “We know who pays out salaries and it’s an issue of making sure employees understand it.”
Most student complaints about J Street employees are rooted in training problems, Burnett said.
“If (J Street) was managed properly, these people wouldn’t be working here,” senior Steve Bartolini said.
“J Street employees have been a problem for four years,” said senior Greg Loser. “They feel like they are doing you a favor by helping you out.”
Some students, however, blamed the attitude of customers for the poor service at J Street.
“If you see where they come from, it’s understandable,” freshman Jason Buchsbaum said of J Street employees.
While most J Street employees refused to comment on their co-workers’ situations, they shared a more positive outlook on employee-student relations.
“I don’t see it,” said Geraldine Woody, who has been a J Street employee for four years. “I think the ones that were ugly are gone.”
One of the employees involved in the February incident was suspended and the other was fired, Woody said.
An 11-year dining services employee who wished to remain anonymous, said employee-student relationships are generally good. Student complaints arise not because employees are mean, but because sometimes they have a bad day, she said.
Employees said their union standing has no effect on their relationship with students.
“If you’re bad with students, then it doesn’t matter if you’re in a union or not – you’ll get fired,” said Patricia Ruiz, who has been a University dining services employee for 14 years.
Burnett said workers’ morale and responsiveness to students has “extremely improved” in recent years thanks to new training programs.
But some students disagreed, saying problems with employees continue to haunt J Street.
“I don’t think service has improved because these same people have been here forever,” senior Sam Byrd said.
Others students, however, said J Street employees do not represent University employees as a whole, calling J Street the weak link in University service.
Having noticed improvements in the attitudes of GW Bookstore employees in her four years at GW, senior Anne McDonough said J Street employees remain the rudest of all campus workers.
While Burnett said he encourages students to use the comment cards in J Street to address concerns, some students have looked elsewhere for friendlier service.
“I’ve eaten here less and less over the years and the fact that these people can be such jerks is a big part of it,” senior Dickinson Gould said.
J Street employee Joyce Davis offered advice for both sides of the employee-student relationship.
“The way you treat a person is the way you will be treated,” Joyce said.
This article appeared in the March 8, 1999 issue of the Hatchet.