Georgetown University community members have raised almost $17,000 for a university dining hall employee facing housing and food insecurity amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Dajourn Anuku (COL ’22) and Laissa Aw (NHS ’22) launched a GoFundMe fundraiser for Stacey Walton, an employee at Leo J. O’Donovan Dining Hall, in December 2020 with a goal of raising $8,000. Despite hesitation that the goal was too high, donations passed $8,000 within one night, according to Anuku.
“Stacey is worth every ounce and fiber of support, safety, and love both in and outside of the Georgetown community,” Anuku wrote on the GoFundMe page.
As of Feb. 3, the fundraiser has raised $16,975 for Walton. While the donation turnout is an accomplishment, the responsibility to provide for university employees should not fall on the shoulders of Georgetown students, according to Anuku.
“It shouldn’t have to get to this point,” Anuku said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya. “While we were joyful about this and even eventually sharing the news with her, the fact that it even has to be this is already something troublesome.”
Since the start of the pandemic, Walton has lost her home and her dog, struggled with food insecurity and experienced a drastic pay cut, she told Anuku and Aw.
“Not enough support, security, protection, nor love is provided to her while she’s here on campus relentlessly caring for students seeking to be fed,” Anuku wrote on the GoFundMe page.
Although Georgetown dining employees are employed by Aramark, the university’s food service provider, the university is committed to the well-being of Aramark employees, according to a university spokesperson.
“When we become aware of an Aramark employee who may be in need of assistance, we communicate with Aramark’s on-campus management team leadership so they can see if support is available through the Aramark’s Employee Assistance Program, which provides emergency funding,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Aramark’s Employee Assistance Program provides tools for employees and their families to manage COVID-related anxiety at no cost, according to Aramark’s website. Aramark also provides additional virtual health resources and paid sick leave for employees who have contracted or been exposed to COVID-19.
Georgetown community members have also raised concerns about the Redeploy Georgetown program, which was intended to protect staff members from furloughs, salary reductions and layoffs by offering voluntary semester-long public health-related jobs, but it now requires some employees to either accept new, in-person redeployment positions or take unpaid leave without benefits.
The university has implemented a number of important health and safety measures to protect the on-campus workers, such as regular COVID-19 testing, daily symptom monitoring, mask wearing, and physical distancing, but these measures are not enough, according to GUSA Senator Leo Rassieur (COL ’23).
“Leo’s is crowded. People aren’t wearing masks. People aren’t observing social distancing. There is a risk of getting COVID,” Rassieur said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “If you are forced to decide between working in a really unsafe environment that could put you, your family and your kids at risk versus not taking any pay at all, especially in an economy that’s not doing very well, that’s not really a choice. You’re choosing between two different kinds of very intense suffering.”
GUSA hopes the university will take measures to ensure its employees are avoiding housing and food insecurity, in addition to tightening up safety regulations so workers can stay healthy, according to Rassieur.
“We basically have just gotten started on what I think could very well be a very, very long campaign pushing for these issues,” Rassieur said. “We want to be optimistic in saying the university will find our requests to be reasonable, but we also know that change is very, very slow at Georgetown.”
This article has been updated to clarify a source’s title.