By Connor Smith
Students who swiped into the Atrium at Eickhoff this week might have noticed something was off. The usual spirited greetings of “Y’all got this in the bag!” and “You’re almost over the hump!” were absent from the main dining hall on campus.
The source, beloved cashier Eve Cruz, was fired by Sodexo on Monday, Nov. 7, in a decision that left students and coworkers alike seeking answers.
“I’ve been crying and everything, boss,” Cruz told The Signal. “It hurt me so bad. It’s almost killing me. I’ve been trying to keep my pressure.”
Cruz, who became an icon at the College for her constant showers of positivity and school spirit, said Sodexo accused her of letting students into the Atrium without swiping in and for talking badly about the College and Sodexo. Cruz denied these allegations in an interview with The Signal.
“We recognize that Eve’s separation is hard for students to accept, and fully appreciate what she meant to them,” Patrice Mendes, general manager of Sodexo at the College, wrote in a statement. “As a long-term employee, she was a member of our team and we also have found this to be a difficult separation.”
According to Mendes, who said she could not disclose details of employment separation, Cruz’s union representative was involved in the process from the beginning, and she was given a hearing with the Union and Sodexo present. Mendes also said Sodexo follows a progressive discipline policy, which requires a series of warnings and reviews before final termination.
According to employees in the Atrium who requested anonymity, most of the staff cannot believe the news.
“Shock. Not outrage, but anger,” one employee told The Signal. “She goes all out for y’all. We all think Eve deserves another chance.”
Another worker implied that while some workers might be happy to pick up her shifts, the general consensus is that Cruz was mistreated.
Many students discovered Cruz’s firing on Facebook, when junior economics major Leo Boerstoel posted on her timeline to ask if she had really been fired. More than 345 students reacted and commented to show their support for Cruz.
“We all know what an amazingly sweet, kind, fiercely loving person Eve is and we love her to death–so let’s show it to everyone,” one student commented. “I love TCNJ very dearly but it’s more important that they know we’re not going to let them get away with this.”
According to senior biomedical engineering major Augie Pfluger, students are frustrated and disheartened.
“Eve was such a positive spirit on this campus, and she never failed to brighten up my day,” Pfluger told The Signal via Facebook Messenger. “I would like to believe that TCNJ does care about the well being of their students, but I think they need to investigate the intentions of the companies they choose to partner with.”
The loss of Cruz could be a blow to students and faculty alike. According to Larissa Cantwell, an ambassador and an elementary education and psychology double major, Cruz maintained a critical role in getting students excited to come to the College.
“She is mentioned all the time (when we give tours) and we love when she talks to our parents,” Cantwell said. “We always say Eve and Larry are the best.”
Cruz, who refers to students as “bosses,” claims she was told not to return to the campus. That means football games and other College activities might be missing their biggest fan.
Cruz impacted the student body with her positivity and gifts. According to Cruz, management often told her she shouldn’t spend her own money for candy or for students to enter the Atrium.
“Where I come from, the kids don’t have opportunities like that,” Cruz said. “These bosses are going into the world to make a better world now… Some of them can’t go home for Halloween, so they celebrate here on the campus. Yeah, I get candy for them. They say ‘Oh, Eve. You shouldn’t be spending your money on them.’ I’ve been here almost 10 years.”
While Cruz said she never talked negatively about Sodexo or the College, she would often hear complaints from students and parents.
“I just told the kids to do what I would do,” she said. “If I’m not satisfied with something, let the person know. If my bosses are spending their money with (Sodexo), they should be getting the satisfactory of what they’re looking for, or something very close to it.”
According to Mendes, Sodexo is willing to discuss any and all other grievances students may have. A Dining Services Committee, in partnership with students, meets every other week.
“Any student who has a suggestion, comment or grievance is welcome to attend,” Mendes wrote in an email. “The Meetings are held every other Wednesdays at 2:00 in Social Sciences building room 230. Our next meeting is 11/30 due to the Thanksgiving holiday.”
Meanwhile, Cruz is hopeful that she’ll be able to return and help the students who need more positivity and support in their lives.
“I want y’all to be happy,” Cruz said. “That’s why I’ll be in the poke wars (on Facebook) with the kids. Just like I told them, we in a poke war ’cause every time I poke you, I’m thinking about you. I got some of the kids that hit over 2,000 pokes. I’m genuine with my bosses.”