Interview with a Former Wheelock Dining Hall Employee

In April of 2019 and January of 2020 articles detailing concerns about the treatment of workers at Acadia University’s Wheelock Dining Hall were published in The Athenaeum.

The first article was co-written by Max Abu-Laban and Sean Schofield. This article (http://theath.ca/features/do-we-not-all-deserve-the-basics/) discussed the demoralizing work that workers of meal hall were subjected to. The second article (http://theath.ca/news/the-acadia-labour-movement/)  included a series of demands that were brought forward by The Acadia Labour Movement. The group raised concerns surrounding things like job security and respect. The petition collected 250+ signatures shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic, which clearly demonstrates that Acadia students, alumni, and professors fully support changes being made in the best interest of Wheelock Dining employees. This petition called on Acadia University to take action and address the pressing concerns affecting workers on the campus. 

Opinions editor Katie Winters got in contact with a former Wheelock employee who wanted to share their story and working experiences. All identifying characteristics of this former employee have been omitted for their privacy. These are their responses: 

What was your experience as a worker at Wheelock Dining Hall? Positive or negative? Why? (Were hours bad, managerial staff disrespectful, work unsafe, diners rude? etc.)

“My experience as a worker at Wheelock Dining Hall was neutral. There were positive benefits that came from the job, like making new friends and being closer to school. The managers were great, at the time. My hours were great, and I enjoyed coming to work. As time went on, I dreaded going into work as there was one specific manager who was always rude and made unnecessary comments about students that were overheard by staff. For example, that manager would call international students racial slurs. She created issues within the staff and got involved with personal lives rather than leaving them at home. She also had a power high, as you would say, as she just became a manager recently. Due to the power trips she had, there were three staff members who walked out on the job because of her. Hours were being cut at Wheelock due to COVID-19, and as a result, left a lot of staff members upset, myself being one of them. I had never had an issue with any students and for that, I am grateful”. 

Can you detail any specific instances where it felt like you were undervalued as a student employee? 

-“Definitely! I will also give a content warning that it mentions r*pe/sexual assault, so please continue at your own risk. There is a zero-tolerance policy at Wheelock Dining Hall, at least to my knowledge. One of my last shifts at Wheelock Dining Hall, there was an incident where a staff member made a comment about a female student who was wearing a revealing outfit and said that the student was “asking for it”. When asked for clarification, I was given a look like a confirmation that she was referring to r*pe/sexual assault. I went to management about the comment and they have done nothing. A statement was sent in about it and I truly believe that nothing will get done about it. They have tried to tell me not to speak about this to anyone, but I believe nothing will get done unless we talk about it. Due to this, I walked out on the rest of my shift and left my station unattended. I didn’t feel comfortable staying in a workplace knowing that someone believed that it was because of what someone wore they’re ‘asking for it’”. 

What do you think Acadia University should do to address these issues moving forward? 

“From the student standpoint, I truly believe Acadia University needs to look into finding an educator about sexual violence and how comments like mentioned above are not okay, especially in the workplace. When it happened to me, I was wearing pants and a t-shirt. These comments could trigger a lot of flashbacks for those who had this happen to them and it may also prevent someone from coming forward about it in the future. I truly believe Acadia can do better”. 

“On another note, I do want to mention that I was told to ‘remember the good ones’ at Wheelock Dining Hall. If I am to continue to be blunt, there are few good ones at Wheelock. When I think of the good ones, I only think about those who have made a positive impact on me, which comes to four people. As well, I don’t mean any ill will towards the Wheelock Dining Hall staff members. However, I do not apologize for speaking my truth. I will stand up for what I believe in”.

If you are a current or former employee of Wheelock Dining Hall and would like to anonymously share your experiences with The Athenaeum, reach out to Katie Winters at [email protected]. Your identity will be protected.