The Georgetown University Student Association (GUSA) Senate unanimously passed a resolution Oct. 3 urging the university to strengthen food safety and sanitation protocols at on-campus dining locations.
The resolution specifically calls on Georgetown University to work with Aramark, Georgetown’s food service distributor, and other food providers on campus to bolster food safety and cleanliness training, establish a food delivery system for students and work to address food insecurity on Georgetown’s campus.
The university must do more to ensure the safety and cleanliness of food provided by campus dining options, according to the resolution.
“The University has not provided effective training to new hires at the dining hall, leading to lack of basic cleanliness, cross-contamination, and undercooked food,” the resolution reads. “This poses a significant risk to students who eat food from the Dining hall.”
The resolution comes after Georgetown Vice President and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Ranit Mishori (MED ’02) announced Sept. 24 that more than 90 students had reported symptoms of norovirus, a highly contagious gastrointestinal virus that spreads through direct contact or contaminated food and water. Several students also reported experiencing food poisoning after eating food from campus dining locations in a GUSA survey sent out Sept. 22.
Precautions taken by the university against food contamination were not communicated to the student body, according to GUSA Senator Kathryn Yang (SFS ’23), one of the authors of the Oct. 3 resolution.
“I’ve definitely seen changes in the dining hall itself. You now can’t get drinks from the station directly and someone has to hand it to you, and it seems like there are measures to stop cross-contamination,” Yang said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya. “However, they haven’t communicated that through email or any other written form.”
The university did not adequately communicate with students about the norovirus outbreak and possible food contamination, according to GUSA Senator Dominic Gordon (SFS ’24), who co-sponsored the resolution.
“You can’t stop a virus from entering things,” Gordon said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya. “It gets on my nerves that we have to constantly deal with this crisis and it’s the student government that sends out information before the administration.”
The norovirus outbreak has not been linked to any campus dining locations, according to a university spokesperson.
“While it is reassuring to know the likely pathogen responsible for this outbreak, we still do not know the source. At this time, we have found no link to a food source or any of the dining venues on campus,” the university spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Following a visit from DC Health, we have determined that campus dining locations, including Leo O’Donovan Hall, can safely remain open.”
The university took immediate action to avoid contamination, including deep cleaning dining spaces, residence halls, academic buildings and other facilities, according to the university spokesperson.
Since the norovirus outbreak has prompted students to start avoiding food from the dining hall, instances of food insecurity have increased on campus, according to Yang.
“When they released the announcement that norovirus was going on, we were already subjected to this inflexible meal plan, as well as the fact that Leo’s is one of the only places that provides meal swipe options,” Yang said. “A lot of underclassmen students, as well as myself, rely on that to get food every day.”
In addition to the calls for increased food safety, the resolution calls on the university to provide delivery services to students who are ill or self-quarantining and to address food insecurity on campus beyond mandating meal plans for all on-campus students.
The GUSA Senate previously urged the university to provide cheaper meal plans for on-campus students and meal plan exemptions for upperclassmen in a resolution passed Aug. 29, following long lines, overcrowding and few meal choices at Leo J. O’Donovan Dining Hall.
Students must continue to advocate for the university to enforce more food safety measures, according to Yang.
“We’re in this situation, and the only thing we can do is keep pressuring the administration and keep contacting and communicating with them,” Yang said.