Incidents of intoxicated students vomiting at the restaurant prod staff to consider closing at midnight
During the Campus Council (CC) meeting on Sep. 12, Sheila Wilson, associate vice president for auxiliary operations procurement/purchasing, spoke to the general council about concerns regarding student intoxication at Mom’s during the weekend, specifically incidents of vomiting.
In the discussion with CC, the possibility of closing Mom’s at 12:00 a.m. was brought up, mainly because the majority of incidents occur between midnight and 2:00 a.m., its closing time.
“That’s a last resort,” Director of Dining Services Marjorie Shamp said. “We don’t want to curtail the late-night dining hours but that’s always a possibility if the situation continues; we would prefer not to subject our staff members to it, so that’s why that was brought up as a possibility.”
“If a student vomits in Mom’s, the Health Department requires us to shut the facility down and the resulting mess and everything in a specific vicinity around it has to be cleaned and sanitized,” Shamp informed.
“It puts quite a damper on the flow of the evening because we have to excuse everyone from the dining room, and it takes a while to [clean it up],” Shamp added.
The primary concern is for the Mom’s staff that has to clean up the mess. Coming in contact with a bodily fluid can put the food-handlers at risk for certain diseases. “[They] should not have to be cleaning up vomit in the course of their job. It’s not safe for the staff, it’s not safe for the patrons and it’s a huge inconvenience for staff and students in particular which is why it’s something we rang the bell about this year,” Shamp said.
Regarding whether cleaning up vomit is in the staff’s job description, Shamp explained, “It’s more on the shoulders of the supervisor on duty. I don’t know that we specifically, during our orientation, indicate that as one of the job responsibilities, but the supervisor is well-aware of it and they do receive training on how to handle it properly.”
The amount of time that Mom’s is closed differs based on the time during the night and the severity of the mess. Many times, the supervisor will decide it is not worth reopening so Mom’s will close early, negatively affecting all students. Security will also be present in the aftermath.
Donna Yonker, general manager of catering and retail operations, said, “Normally security is called or a lot of times they see it and they come and let us know that it happened because a lot of time our staff’s back is turned to the [dining room] so they don’t notice it right away.”
“They’ll see something on the video surveillance of something about to take place or something that had just taken place on the cameras,” Shamp added.
According to Joe Kirk, associate director of Security and Protective Services, “Anytime we have to call the squad to get someone medical attention — particularly as it relates to alcohol — is a problem because that means the person has a health concern that could be dangerous.”
Kirk also mentioned that the number of sudents that are transported to the Longbrake Wellness Center or the emergency room (ER) during the weekend varies from year to year, but the average is three to five at the beginning of the year.
“Those numbers involve both first-year students and upper class students,” Kirk said. “[This year], we have transported more upper class [students] to either the Wellness Center or ER than first-year students.”
Shamp and Yonker mentioned a previous year that was particularly difficult regarding student behavior while intoxicated. This resulted in a campaign called “Respect Your Mom’s” where the campus restaurant closed at 12:00 a.m. for two weeks before students started to improve behavior.
“After we opened back up, we noticed students were self-limiting what went on or if they saw someone at the point of vomiting through intoxication, they would usher that person out themselves,” Shamp said. “It’s an awareness that something like that could happen and say, ‘let’s not destroy everyone’s good time, let’s get them out of here
and put them somewhere where we can take care of them.’”
When asked whether this current school year compared to that particularly bad year, both dining service leaders agreed there are similarities. There have already been four incidents that took place over three weekends. They stated that this is too common and raises cause for concern.
“It should be rare. We’ve had school years where it happened maybe once or twice a semester and that, to us, is too much but we aren’t going to be ringing any alarms about it,” Shamp said.
Ultimately, dining services wants students to be enjoying their college experience, but that comes with certain limits.
Providing an example, Shamp said, “Don’t get me wrong, we are glad that everyone has the opportunity to have a good time on the weekends, it’s just that you wouldn’t expect to be dining in Applebee’s and have someone vomiting next to you. Mom’s is a restaurant so that’s the respect and care we ask of the student community to provide to us.”
She continued, “We just ask the students to be mindful of what’s going on with their friends. I understand people get hungry but it’s probably not the best idea to go to a restaurant, Mom’s or any food service establishment when you are so intoxicated that there is a possibility you could vomit. Know your limits and respect the staff members and the idea that we don’t want to spoil everyone’s good time by shutting down Mom’s. That’s the last thing we want to happen.”
Matt Mayes ’20, an at-large representative for CC, echoed many of dining services’ statements, including making sure shutting down Mom’s early was the last resort.
“What everyone in CC decided was jumping straight to [closing Mom’s at midnight] would be a little far mostly because students don’t know it’s a problem yet. So the first step that Sheila [Wilson] supported was trying to spread the word,” Mayes assured.
Speculating about possible causes Mayes stated, “Maybe it has something to do with it being the first three weeks of the semester, maybe a lot of the incidents are caused by first years who don’t really understand drinking and oversubscribe to the drinking culture a little early, but I think it is a problem that could be solved if students themselves have a cultural shift and make it known that it is not okay to throw up in these places.”
Overall, Mayes’ advice was to just avoid Mom’s if you are feeling ill and to be accountable for your friends. “Don’t go to Mom’s if you think you’re going to be sick; don’t let your friends come to Mom’s if they think they’re going to be sick. If you’re going to be sick, leave Mom’s because it’s a major problem and a major safety hazard for the staff and it might ruin [the experience] for everyone,” Mayes said.