News | Student Life

Administrators work to reduce heat in John Jay kitchen in response to student petition

After student activists announced Wednesday night that temperatures in the John Jay Dining Hall had been lowered, the administration said they were moving forward with more reforms.

In a statement, Scott Wright, vice president of campus services, said Thursday that he is working with John Jay employees to address the issues regarding conditions in the kitchen.

“Temperature and ventilation are issues that we’ve continuously addressed through numerous improvements made in John Jay over the past several years,” he said. “We continue to seek new solutions. Currently, the operation is exploring new short term remedies, while also pursuing possible permanent options that require more complex investigation and thoughtful analysis.”

The pizza oven, which workers say contributed to temperatures up to 115 degrees at the serving stations, was turned off after complaints from workers and a protest march by the Student-Worker Solidarity group. Pizzas are now being prepared in the kitchen downstairs until a long-term solution to the ventilation problem can be found.

One worker, who asked not to be named to protect her job, said that the kitchen is now significantly cooler.

“It’s still hot, but not to the point where people are getting sick,” the kitchen worker said.

The changes only happened because of SWS protests, she said. 

“It took you students to make a difference in our lives in John Jay,” the worker said. “Why is it that it took students to help us, when we as workers have been asking for years and it didn’t happen?”

The worker said that when her co-workers had asked management to improve the conditions in past years, they were punished. 

“If you speak up about something, they abuse their position to scare people not to speak up,” she said of administrators. “We’re treated like second-class citizens. They treat us like trash, like garbage, like we’re beneath them.”

SWS members said they would continue pressuring the administration to make permanent changes. 

“I definitely don’t think it’s enough,” SWS member Corin Coetzee, CC ’16, said. Money for renovations in John Jay over the summer should have been used to “make sure that every worker in John Jay are working in healthy and safe environments,” he said.

“It’s so shameful that the administrators put up such a fight to allow that temporary stopgap measure to happen,” said SWS member George Joseph, CC ’16.

tracey.wang@columbiaspectator.com  |  @TraceyDWang

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