No Fly Zone: Student Questions PantherDining

Peter Tilly was less than impressed when he found flies in his fried rice in Piedmont North the first day of class.

“I only got about two or three scoops of fried rice and found maybe eight or ten flies in the rice,” Tilly said.

He said he tried going back to Piedmont Central to eat something more, but had to leave after beginning to feel nauseous.

But what frustrated the student the most was the way his complaints were received. Tilly spoke to the Piedmont North manager, who took his plate back to the kitchen and came outside saying the flies were sesame seeds that they put in the rice.

“I disagreed, showing the wings, legs, and mouth tendrils of these so-called ‘sesame seeds,’ and he took my plate back again,” he said. The problem was more than just the rice. “I put my other dishes away and found some live flies on the walls, and got the manager and showed that to him too.”

Nicole Galonczyk, public relations specialist for PantherDining, confirmed for The Signal that the facility was facing an infestation problem that came as a result of the dining halls being shut down for two weeks over winter break.


“With general pest control and pipe maintenance, we have seldom had issues of this nature in the past,” Galonczyk said. “However, we believe that there was an infestation that worked its way into the pipes over the winter holiday as our dining halls were closed and this occurred upon returning from winter break.”

THE GONE-WRONG

Galonczyk said that often times, flies are drawn to the fresh food used for PantherDining dishes and “their presence can be exacerbated through staff and patrons constantly coming through the doorways.” To prevent this, the facilities have a contract with a pest control service which service the locations regularly.

“Our pest control company utilizes enzymes to kill the bacteria found in our drain pipes,” she said. “This is more sustainable than a pesticide and safer around food. We had the pipes cleaned out and sprayed with enzymes before leaving for the break. Unfortunately, over the two week-period, we were closed, flies managed to get into the pipes, which are multi-use.”
Galonczyk told The Signal the pipes and equipment were all sanitized and cleaned after Tilly brought the incident to their attention, but some students are hesitant.

In an anonymous Georgia State reddit thread, another student posted two pictures of his morning vegetables with flies. The user going by the pseudonym of orangebunn said in the reddit, “This has been going on for too long and it’s making me (literally) sick.” The user said she met with the manager of PantherDining and was hoping for a change.

Tilly said he noticed the post, which was posted a week after his incident, and was taken aback, as he was hoping the issue was resolved.

“I assumed that the problem was properly being fixed and taken care of, but this signaled to me that it was not,” Tilly said. “I think this is a really big issue. When we pay [$2,000] a semester for a dining plan, it is because we will be using the dining halls for all of our meals.”

He said he’s upset because Georgia State isn’t offering any alternatives to his meal plans, even after situations like this, and despite the fly-infested food students “cannot change where or what we will be eating.”

“Running three massive dinings halls is by no means an easy task, but with the money that we pay as students, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to be very upset when we are given infested food,” he said.

MANAGERS’ COMMUNICATION

Tilly went through a maze of managers trying to confirm that the issue was being properly addressed. He told The Signal he talked to the manager of Piedmont North and also of Piedmont Central, Huston Freeman. Freeman informed Tilly they were working on the issue and that it was something “that just happens,” and mentioned it might have been the pipers.

“This was a really disconcerting thing to hear from the dining hall manager,” Tilly said. After traveling up the chain of managers with his e-mails, he said he got in touch with Lenor Musick, PantherDining director, who told the student her greatest concerns were the incident and the way it was handled by the managers.

The lack of clear communication between the managers and students has become one of PantherDining’s greatest priorities, Galonczyk told The Signal.

“After speaking with all individuals who were involved and watching the video, we confirmed there was a fly. It was and never is our intention to misinform students– we want students to feel comfortable approaching us about incidents so that we can continue providing a safe, clean dining atmosphere,” she said.

She said the department apologizes on the manager’s mistake on misidentifying the fly as a sesame seed, but understand how he could make the mistake as incidents like this are so rare.

She said the team has met with many students since and held safety training sessions for cooks, chefs and managers, as well as their pest control team. They are also in the process of implementing a new program which would give students the opportunity to meet managers and chefs one-on-one.

“We strive to have open lines of communication between our department and students,” she said. “We will be adding contact information along with headshots of the management team at each location’s ‘napkin board’ so that situations can be addressed in a more timely manner.”


FULL DISCLOSURE: Peter Tilly was a former opinion writer for The Signal. He approached the student newspaper about this story after having already resigned.

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