Students rally in support of Nolan’s worker

By JACOB TOOK | April 20, 2017

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File Photo The temporary manager at Nolan’s was dismissed after a conflict with a worker.

After a conflict between Hopkins Dining worker Latanya Genius and her temporary manager, students reached out to Hopkins Dining to express dissatisfaction with the manager’s behavior. The manager has since been removed from Nolan’s dining facility.

Sophomore Alex Ferzola posted in the Class of 2019 Facebook group, which brought attention to the issue. In the post, Ferzola explained a recent incident he witnessed in which the manager was disrespectful towards the dining workers, specifically Genius. He urged students to contact Dining to express their concerns.

Ferzola explained why he composed the Facebook post in an email to The News-Letter.

“I posted the lengthy Facebook article with the intentions of hearing back from a few more peers, hoping to get more information about the situation,” he wrote. “What I actually received was an influx of 350+ reactions and 20 comments.”

Genius said that the manager created a work environment that made her uncomfortable.

According to Genius, the disagreements resulted from new portion control measures, particularly on the chicken wings that she serves. She said that the manager acted disrespectfully, berated her in front of students for not following the guidelines and refused to leave her alone while she was working.

She explained how the manager brought out a scale for her to weigh portions, which she considered demeaning. Genius has worked at the University for almost four and a half years and believes that the new policies violated her training from Dining.

Genius explained that she did not follow the portion control guidelines because her job is to make sure students have enough food.

“Whatever the students ask for, that’s our job to make sure we provide it for them,” she said. “They play sports, they fry their brains in the library studying all day, so if they ask for something extra we’re supposed to give it to them to make sure they’re full. It just makes sense.”

She said that she thinks of the students in Nolan’s as her children when she is at work, away from her own family. According to Genius, students are the reason she comes to work every day.

“I literally love coming to work,” Genius said. “I love being at work, I love the people I work with, I love the students. It is about making them happy, it is about making them full. It’s not about just us because if [the students] weren’t here, we wouldn’t have jobs.”

She said that on the day of the conflict, she was worried about being written up for failing to follow the rules but became even more distressed after students asked her what was wrong. Genius left her shift early because she said that seeing students unhappy made her physically upset.

The student reaction on social media after Ferzola’s Facebook post brought the issue to Dining’s attention.

Director of Hopkins Dining Bill Connor explained that  he contacted Bon Appétit, the catering company that employs Genius, as soon as he was notified of the situation.

“Hopkins Dining will continue to work closely with Bon Appétit on this issue,” Connor wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “While we are not able to confirm employment of Bon Appétit staff members, Bon Appétit informed Hopkins Dining that [the manager] is no longer at any of the Johns Hopkins University venues.”

Ferzola wrote that he was satisfied with Dining’s response to the issue.

“The dining administration swiftly took action on the matter, and very professionally,” he wrote. “They handled the whole situation with sympathy for the student body and professionalism in the workplace.”

A number of students have expressed support for Genius, sharing personal stories about their interactions with her in the comments section of Ferzola’s Facebook post.

Sophomore Caroline Lupetini said that Genius’ kindness made Hopkins a welcoming environment for students.

“She’s truly one of the kindest people I’ve ever met at Hopkins,” Lupetini said. “She always asks students how they’re doing, how their day is going. It’s that type of personal kindness that really means a lot. That makes Hopkins a home away from home.”

Lupetini said she has heard of other hostile work environments in campus dining facilities such as the Fresh Food Cafe. She also said that the workers are underpaid. She emphasized that students should be more cognizant of worker conditions on campus.

“In general, I think students should just be more responsive, respectful and caring towards our service workers,” she said. “We should be showing these people a lot more respect.”

Sophomore Charlie Wang wrote in an email to The News-Letter that students should support workers like Genius.

“[She] is a model employee, the employee that companies in the hospitality industry yearn to have,” he wrote. “She is genuinely a great person. Students are the only ones in the role and have the power to help someone like her. If students do not, no one will.”

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