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Dining Halls: Rumblings of Discontent

Mealtime Martyrs?

By Scott M. Finn

Harvard students might still be singing hosannas to new Dining Services director Michael W. Berry, but some dining hall employees say they are finding the cross he has asked them to carry a little hard to bear.

They say that the same sandwich bars, soup selections and waffle fixings that have renewed students' faith in the College's dining system have created a busier and more stressful workday for them.

"There's more work now," said Olga P. Santos, who works in the Harvard Union dining hall. "With the new set-up we're always rushing to get out of here on time."

"Sometimes we can't eat now ourselves," she said, explaining that the extra work many employees are now doing sometimes causes them to miss parts of breaks. For example, she said that though the morning shift's lunch break is scheduled for 10:45 a.m., on many occasions it has started as late as 11 a.m. this year.

Liz M. Braga, another Union worker, said she often finds herself having to hurry to finish her work. "Rushing means hurting yourself and not doing as good of a job," she said.

Braga and Santos said that they expect their jobs to go more smoothly once they get used to the new system. But Braga said she will be glad when the time for experimenting comes to an end.

"They're trying to make changes for the better, but the changes are always in the works," she said.

Some dining service employees said they hope Berry will realize that the improvement in food quality is happening partially at their expense.

"We need a little more help," said Jim A. Neil, chief chef of the Harvard Dining Services Workers Union, Local 26, "but you have to give [the management] a chance to adjust."

Frank E. Kasprzyk, a supervisor for the river house dining halls, said that a more decentralized planning system will soon allow for better scheduling. "Soon we'll be doing our own scheduling...each supervisor will be completely responsible for everything that happens," he said.

Kasprzyk said that although Berry's changes have eliminated some jobs, they have added others. For instance, an employee might be asked to work at the sandwich bar at the same time that the size of the salad bar staff was being reduced.

"But there is still more work," he said.

In six weeks, the dining halls will have completed their first meal cycle, said Kasprzyk, at which time the new methods will be evaluated to see how well they have worked in practice.

Neil said he plans to voice his concerns to management by mid-October. "We need to reserve judgement [on the changes] until we see how they respond to us," he said. "So far, they've listened."

Despite their concerns about the increased workload, Harvard dining hall workers said yesterday that they were willing to work a little harder to insure that Berry's ideas for improvement become realities.

"Everybody loves Berry, students and workers," said Neil. "He's giving 100 percent...We all have to remember that good work takes time."

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