News, University News

Dining Services gets heat for lack of AC in the Ratty

Lack of air conditioning leave dining service staff exhausted, elicit student petition

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Davies_RattyAC_GusReed

Richard Cabral has worked in Food Services at the Sharpe Refectory for the past 19 years. Cabral’s most strenuous moments on the job do not come from the swarms of hungry college kids, nor from his eight-and-a-half hour shifts. It’s the ruthless summer heat that pushes him to the breaking point.

“Whatever the temperature is outside, it’s easily 20 degrees hotter in (the Ratty),” Cabral said, standing behind trays of vegetables and lunch meat. “The heat gets you tired faster. It puts you a bit on edge.”

In response to these working conditions, The Student Labor Alliance circulated an online petition over the summer that called for Brown Dining Services management to install air conditioning in the Main Dining Room and kitchens at the Ratty, citing health and safety violations.

“Over the summer, temperatures in Providence can reach up to 95 degrees, and yet, workers are expected to handle hot food for multiple hours on end with limited breaks and only a few fans to blow around humid, stale air,” the petition read.

The Ratty is one of three on-campus dining halls and eateries that remain open during summer months, but the only location without air conditioning in its main dining area (air conditioning is installed in its side dining rooms and administrative offices.)

Staff have fallen ill from working in the intense heat Rhode Island summers typically provide, Cabral said, adding that he has found himself feeling light-headed frequently.

Food Service Worker Oscar Mitchell said he had to leave work early to go home on multiple occasions because he could not handle the temperature.

“It’s something we have been complaining about for as long as I can remember, but they keep saying how expensive it would be to add air conditioning,” Cabral said.

Peter Rossi, the University’s director of Dining Services, is in the process of collaborating with other University departments to look into cooling systems for the Sharpe Refectory, Rossi wrote in an email to The Herald.

“As part of our continual efforts to maintain and upgrade our dining facilities, initial steps to evaluate the possibility of changes to heating and cooling at the Sharpe Refectory have been taken via the appropriate University processes,” Rossi said. “The scope, timeline and cost for any upgrades are being evaluated through this process before any decision to proceed further is made.”

Dining Services has placed temporary cooling units in the Sharpe Refectory while a long-term solution is in the works, Rossi said. But some dining staff who work in the Ratty said that the fans were not nearly adequate for temperature concerns.