Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
In a sharply worded letter to the editor in last week’s edition of the Phoenix, Joe Alberti ’06 accused managers at Sharples Dining Hall of mistreating employees and intentionally hiring individuals who won’t complain about inappropriate managerial behavior. Wrote Alberti, “[t]he management treat many of the staff as if they aren’t worthy of the same respect as fellow managers or the students. News flash: The staff members who make all of our meals at Sharples possible are human beings too and deserve to be treated with the same amount of respect as everyone else.” Following the publication of the letter to the editor, Alberti has been in touch with Larry Schall, Vice President of Administration, in an attempt to arrange a meeting to discuss the matter further.
According to Alberti, he received a stinging rebuke from Schall, challenging his assertions and dismissing his accusations as representative of only a small number of Sharples employees who likely have performance related issues, rather than as representative of Sharples staff as a whole. Schall was unavailable for comment before the time of publication.
Alberti disagrees with Schall’s appraisal of the situation, writing “I must strongly disagree with [his] statement that almost everyone who works [in Sharples] enjoys their job. This is most certainly not true.” In addition, Alberti noted that while many staff are not pleased with their situation, “they are afraid of losing their jobs that they so preciously need…Furthermore, one of the staff members that I wrote about in my article talked to me on Friday, telling me that she is now afraid of losing her job because of what was printed…[b]ecause she feels Linda [McDougall, Director of Dining Services] will retaliate for it.” McDougall declined to comment on the situation because she is still trying to ascertain all the facts relevant to the matter, but did say she found the letter to the editor to be quite “disturbing.”
In a case such as this, determining the facts of the matter can be quite difficult, since whether or not the majority of Sharples employees are being mistreated by management, if employees are concerned about retaliation the answers provided when pressed about the issue will likely be negative regardless of the true situation. With campus sentiment already inflamed by the debate about the implementation of a living wage, Alberti’s letter to the editor struck an exposed chord for many students. In the end, however, Alberti simply hopes that the issue of employee treatment can be guided to a conclusion such that all parties are satisfied with the outcome; a goal which may, in fact, be easier done on this issue than on the issue of a living wage which is boiling underneath.