The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

CODE BREAKERS

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has declared a number of St. John’s dining locations in violation of the city’s health code.

Of the five campus locations tested on Feb. 9, four earned 28 or more violation points, the cutoff number for passing inspection. Montgoris Dining Hall received 36 points; the Library Cafe in St. Augustine Hall received 35 points; Marillac Hall Food Court received 32 points; and the Faculty Club received 30 points. Only one location, the University Center Snack Bar, passed inspection with a minimal six points, below the average of 13 for all NYC restaurants, according to the Department of Health.

Restaurants and dining locations throughout New York City are inspected on a regular basis by the Department of Health. Each site has the potential to earn between 0-175 points. A site must earn 28 or fewer points in order to pass inspection. Earning 29 or more requires a compliance inspection by the department and a hearing, typically scheduled six to eight weeks after the initial inspection.

Following the inspection, St. John’s students began circulating links to the department’s Web site, which provides electronic versions of the inspection reports to the public.

According to University officials, students and dining patrons were never in harm’s way and the citations were largely of an administrative nature and most were immediately corrected.

“At no time was the health and safety of our students or the dining patrons at any of our facilities compromised,” said Dominic Scianna, St. John’s director of media relations.

According to the department of auxiliary services, the majority of violation points were awarded because of improper paperwork filed by the University and Sodexho.

“The paperwork transition was filing errors on [Sodexho’s] part,” said Kenneth Waldhof, director of auxiliary services. “There might have been five or six items listed, but in one location where 36 points were assigned, 28 of those points were [because of] paperwork.”

Waldhof said that one of Sodexho’s corporate entities had filed under the name Sodexho Operations, LLC. However, when they went to file with the New York City Department of Health, they filed under a different name, Sodexho Management, Inc. When the health inspector then checked to see if a valid certificate had been filed, he was unable to find it because of the name change.

Although a valid permit did exist, Waldhof said, the Department of Health was unable to identify it, costing the University dining location 28 points on the day of inspection.

Other violation points were issued because of facility issues. Violations such as “non-food contact surface improperly constructed,” “lighting inadequate,” “fixture not shielded,” and “‘choking first aid’ poster not posted” were among the most numerous. All of these violations, Waldhof said, would not have any effect on the quality of the food items.

Food related violations included cold food being held above 41 degrees Fahrenheit.

“At the time of the day when the inspector was there, the temperature came in at the high 40s, low 50s,” Waldhof said. “It didn’t necessarily mean that the sandwiches were bad, they just weren’t at the [required] temperature. It was identified right then and there, and it was corrected. In all of those instances with temperature, Sodexho is monitoring the temperatures throughout the day in all the locations.”

Although administrators are confident that all violations have been remedied, or are in the process of being remedied, students and parents still expressed concern for their health and safety.

“What we’ve been doing is just meeting with groups of students and just conveying the information that we’ve been conveying to you” said Fr. James Maher, vice president of Student Affairs. “I think the best policy is transparency. To just be able to lay out where some of the violations were.”

One meeting was held on March 27 in conjunction with the Residence Hall Association. During the meeting, administrators were able to explain the situation to students and then take questions and comments from concerned residents.

“It shouldn’t have happened, but it did,” said Jose Rodriguez, dean of student life. “Now what we have to do is work to win your trust back.”

There have, however, been several requests for partial or full reimbursement for meal plans and a handful of people writing in with concerns for their health.

Waldhof said there will be no reimbursements or refunds made at this time.

“We’re paying so that everyone that works there will be trained and qualified,” said sophomore Mark Osborne. “[They] acted like it wasn’t a big deal that they failed, but it was. They’re running scared.”

While students still express concerns, administrators are confident that there is nothing for the University community to be worried about.

“I still eat in Montgoris, I still eat in Marillac,” Waldhof said. “I still eat the Grab ‘N’ Go sandwiches.”

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