By Donald Halsing
An eyewitness claimed to see an incident of racial bias involving University Police in the Dining Commons Oct. 7.
The incident occurred at the UCook station in the Dining Commons during lunch hours.
According to Molly Roach, a senior criminology major, an unnamed Black male student complained to the UCook attendant regarding the unclean conditions of the pots. A Dining Services manager and University Police were called to the scene.
She said the officers allegedly held their hands on their guns during the incident and stood over the student while he ate.
Roach said she was sitting in one of the booths along the glass wall near UCook around 12:30 p.m. She noticed “an argument” occuring in UCook.
“I could hear it happening, but also, it was the Dining Hall so I didn’t pay any attention to it [at first] because it’s loud in there,” she said.
Roach alleged the student was “upset that the pots in UCook are disgusting and rusty.”
The student complained about the condition of the pots to the UCook attendant, who called their manager, who then called University Police.
She said three officers entered the Dining Commons in response to the call.
Roach said one officer entered the UCook station where the student was and “clearly [was] just trying to intimidate him by cornering him in this tiny space.”
The student “stood up for himself” and refused to leave because “he didn’t do anything,” she said.
Roach alleged one of the other two officers “stood over him [the student] with his hand on his gun the entire time he ate.”
Aretha Phillips, general manager of Sodexo at Framingham State, said, “The student responded negatively when he felt his concerns weren’t being heard or appropriately addressed.”
She said, “Unfortunately, the pan that he grabbed had a bit of rust in it. He did inform the cook on duty. Although she gave him a new pan, her response was inappropriate.”
Because the student reacted negatively when he felt his concerns were not being heard, the Dining Services supervisor was called to the station, she said.
University Police were called after the supervisor “determined that she wasn’t able to handle the situation,” said Phillips. The student continued to cook his meal at that time.
Phillips made an attempt to speak with the student after he dropped his dishes at the dish drop station. She said she apologized for not being involved during the incident and invited the student to come to her office to voice his concerns.
At that time, the student “felt offended by the way the situation was handled” and said he wasn’t in a space to discuss anything, Phillips said. She provided the student with her business card to talk when he was ready.
Phillips was later able to speak with the student about his experience. “We spent some time discussing the situation, my expectations as director, and expectations of Sodexo as a company, and how we didn’t meet them that day.
“He also had some other ideas and concerns that he had in general. However, all in all, he was in a good space and appreciated being reached out to by multiple faculty and staff here at FSU,” she said.
Phillips said she met with her management team to discuss what happened and her expectations of her employees. “We talked about how this, combined with cultural differences, impact the level of sensitivity in situations and how it is heightened, regardless if the intent was there or not.”
She also said she met with the cook who responded “inappropriately” to the student’s feedback. “Ironically, as of Oct. 14, she did give her notice and is no longer with us.
“Additionally, all of our team members will be receiving customer service training and all management and supervisors have been assigned trainings,” Phillips said.
According to publicly available police logs, University Police responded to a “disturbance” in the McCarthy Center at 12:50 Oct. 7.
FSUPD Sgt. Martin Laughlin told The Gatepost the incident is still under investigation. He declined to comment on the it.
Constanza Cabello, vice president of diversity, inclusion, and community engagement, said she is in contact with the student involved.
She said, “In any situation involving a student, my goal is to give the student an opportunity to be heard and to provide insight on how he/she wants to proceed.
“It’s important to center the people involved so that they feel empowered in the process,” Cabello said.
She added she does not oversee Sodexo employees. “However, they are held accountable to the values and goals of the institution like any other employees.”
[Editor’s note: Phillips and Cabello were unable to offer live statements. Their responses were sent via email.]