Note: All names and personal pronouns have been changed throughout the article to maintain complete anonymity for both the individuals mentioned throughout the article and for our sources. Anonymity for our sources was granted by the News because speaking on the record put them at risk of exclusion, termination or possible danger.
During the fall semester of 2022, workers of Stone-Davis dining hall experienced concerning working conditions and mistreatment from management staff.
A particular event that occurred in Stone-Davis in the fall semester caught the attention of TheNews. According to workers around campus, on Oct. 18, there was an event involving Stone-Davis manager Wildcat* and dining hall personnel, Winter*. The event played out as such: Winter was on their allotted break time. Wildcat asked Winter if they were done with their break, which Winter found unusual as they were the only person asked this question. Winter then went to the restroom, located in front of the Stone-Davis dining hall office. After Winter finished using the restroom, it was reported that Winter entered the office to speak to Wildcat about the line of questioning. In the time that Winter was in the office, a disturbance could be heard by those outside the office.
Another worker, Windstorm, was one of the witnesses to the clamor.
“Wildcat [went] out of [their] mind, yelling [at] Winter, screaming [at them],” Windstorm said.
Windstorm and employees around campus agree that the yelling was not only loud and unexpected, but also involved profanities and threats. The commotion even caught the attention of students eating at the dining hall.
Windstorm and other employees in the area tried to diffuse the situation, but Wildcat kept going. The event then became violent. Winter and Windstorm report that Wildcat flipped over one of the tables in the office, breaking one of the table’s metal legs. They also damaged the keyboard sitting on the office desk with their hands, smashed their fists on the table and made motions that Winter found threatening.
“It was bad,” said Windstorm. “I mean, we’ve never seen something like this. So we were in shock, looking at each other’s faces. We were pale because we never expected this from a manager.”
After the incident died down, Winter reportedly looked shaken and tense.
Response from Management
Following the event, Wildcat called a meeting with all the Stone-Davis dining hall workers and apologized to the staff.
“I don’t want to babysit you,” said Wildcat during their apology. “You guys are not high schoolers. This is not kindergarten. If you guys don’t like the way I manage this place, you guys have both doors open to leave [for] another kitchen.”
Stone-Davis employees said that they didn’t feel like they were allowed to respond to Wildcat’s apology. They were instructed to go to HR with any further comments or questions.
Another dining hall worker, Warbler*, remarked that certain employees are more tense after the situation than others. They explained that a lot of the female employees around campus feel especially nervous after seeing the physical side of the situation.
“What is going to happen tomorrow?” said Warbler. “[When Wildcat is near], I start shaking.”
Following their apology, Wildcat was seen around Stone-Davis while training another manager and other dining halls on campus.
“It feels like [management] is laughing in our faces,” said Windstorm. “I mean, we have a union, but, you know, these things are huge.”
According to Stone-Davis workers, they tried to talk to higher-ups. They were told that Wildcat had been penalized and there was no further information to be shared.
“I don’t want to see [them] anymore,” said Winter. “I feel like I have no rights in this place.”
Winter did not receive a private apology from Wildcat.
History of Mistreatment
Wellesley College’s dining halls have a reputation for mistreatment of their staff. Similar incidents have occurred in the past.
Warbler remarks that management across campus tend to be tough, even rude, sometimes. Warbler explains that arguments break out over seemingly little problems, but violence is rare.
“[Another manager] has screamed at me [before],” said Windstorm. “This is enough. No more. I have to say something.”
Dining hall workers across campus note that they are asked to perform tasks for which they do not feel trained or qualified, and that they are not compensated appropriately. During times of staff shortages, many dining hall workers are required to work multiple jobs.
“We have a job, right?” said Warbler. “And if you don’t want to do another job, the contract says that if they ask you to do another thing, you have to do it. Once is okay, but they put something extra every day and you have to do three jobs. And if you don’t, they get mad at you and this is what happen[s].”
Winter said,“The managers are supposed to know the position of each worker and what they have to do, [but] they don’t have any idea.”
In addition to being asked to perform tasks they are not prepared for, employees are also expected to work during their breaks. These essential breaks are normally used for rest, eating and relaxing after working hard to serve Wellesley’s students. For every six hours worked in a calendar day, Massachusetts workers are entitled to an uninterrupted 30-minute meal break.
Winter explained that the reason why tensions were already high with Wildcat is because Wildcat has asked them to work through their break before. Two weeks before the event, Wildcat asked Winter to switch the mayonnaise and ketchup containers while Winter was on their break. In response, Winter said, “Wildcat, I am on break,” but was still instructed to resume jobs afterwards.
Another concern that Stone-Davis dining hall staff brought up is the language barrier between them and the management. The employees of Stone-Davis find it hard to communicate with the people above them because most of them speak Spanish or Portuguese and have little experience with English. They feel like management doesn’t give them a chance to talk because efficiency is highly valued in a busy day of a Wellesley College dining hall.
According to another worker, Woodpecker*, some dining hall staff are afraid to speak up because they fear they will get in trouble.
“We are human beings,” said Woodpecker. “We try our best, so that we have food for you guys. We do our best for you.”
Wellesley College’s Office of Media Relations responded in an email to The News that, “The college is aware of an employee complaint relating to the Stone-Davis dining hall. Human Resources staff take all such complaints seriously and are actively engaged with union staff and representatives from [management] in addressing this one. Due to confidentiality issues around personal matters, the College cannot confirm individual names or details.”
Wellesley College dining hall management did not respond to a request for comment.
* Names have been changed to maintain anonymity for individuals involved.
Micol J. Zhai contributed to reporting.