A problem so drastic they changed to plastic

For the past week-and-a-half, diners in Eickhoff Hall have been without silverware and ceramic plates. However, many students don’t mind the shift, feeling that with plastic forks and knives there’s a better guarantee of cleanliness.

According to John Higgins, general manager of Dining Services, the dishwasher has had two problems over the last week-and-a-half. First, there was a computer problem with the machine which required ordering a replacement part. The shop that Sodexho normally works with did not have the part in stock, necessitating a special order.

After that was fixed, the conveyor belt that takes the dishes through the washer broke. According to Higgins, the problem was with the metal rods that work the conveyor. Of the approximately 150 rods, about 50 were bent. The conveyor belt itself was taken for repairs and then brought back and replaced.

As of Monday afternoon, Higgins said that the belt would be repaired in time to have ceramic dishes and metal utensils available for Monday dinner. Styrofoam cups were still in use, however.

“The guy from the shop has been working on it since 9:30,” Higgins said in an interview Monday. “I’m hopeful we’ll have it ready in time for dinner tonight.”

This isn’t the first time Sodexho has had problems with the dishwasher. Last October, The Signal reported, Sodexho faced complaints that cups were coming out dirty.

While the plastic trays that students use are still being washed, plates, cups and utensils are not. Instead, Sodexho is using Styrofoam plates and cups, with plastic utensils in place of metal.

According to Higgins, the trays are being washed by being taken down to the Travers/Wolfe dining hall, where they are washed in the dishwasher there.

Higgins said he was “disappointed” that students were eating off disposable plates and using plastic forks and knives instead of the usual ceramic and metal.

“It’s more of an inconvenience for students than us,” Higgins said. However, as Eickhoff serves 4,000-4,500 meals a day, the waste generated by using all disposable items all the time made it infeasible as a long-term plan.

Students interviewed in Eickhoff Friday night felt that the Styrofoam plates were just as good, or even better than, the ceramic plates Sodexho usually uses.

“I don’t mind the plates so much,” Trista Altstadt, junior secondary education/English major, said. “It’s the silverware. It’s hard to cut my chicken.”

Others felt that even the utensils are an improvement.

“I feel cleaner eating off of the stuff I know that’s new,” Scott Rein, sophomore mechanical engineering major, said.

“I actually like the plastic better,” Rachel Sherman, sophomore secondary education/physics major, agreed. “You know it’s clean.”