Food fight leaves students hungry

Students left Leonard Cafeteria in disarray after a food fight on April 2.
Students left Leonard Cafeteria in disarray after a food fight on April 2.
Photo courtesy of Keith Bennie

A year-end food fight on Apr. 2 at Leonard Cafeteria caused an estimated $10,000 in damage and forced Queen’s to shut down the cafeteria for the weekend of Apr. 3-4.

Leonard’s closure denied over 2,500 main campus residents the use of their meal plans, sending students to retail outlets on main campus at the expense of their remaining flex dollars, or to Jean Royce Hall Cafeteria on West Campus.

Sean Gray, a first-year student uninvolved with the food fight, expressed his frustration at Leonard’s closure.

“The entire handling of this incident is an outrage to the entire student populace [with] meal plans. Not only is it completely unacceptable that 3,000 or so students were punished because of the actions of 500, but no attempt at accommodating students because of the closure of the cafeteria was made,” Gray said.

“The fact remains that we as students are customers not guests. We have paid over $6,000 for the right to eat in that cafeteria, and we have once again been let down,” he said.

After consulting with Sodexho staff, Associate Dean of Student Affairs Roxy Denniston-Stewart closed Leonard for extensive cleaning.

“Some students have directed negative comments to Sodexho regarding the closure and I want to be clear that this decision was made by the University,” she said.

Like any other weekend during the school year, Ban Righ Cafeteria remained closed. Denniston-Stewart said opening Ban Righ was not feasible since Sodexho could not move staff and food to the cafeteria on such short notice.

The food fight caused between $8,000 and $10,000 worth of damage. The $2,000 difference depends on whether or not Student Affairs decides to factor in the cost of paying extra staff at Jean Royce Hall cafeteria and retail outlets on main campus for the weekend, Denniston-Stewart said.

She also said determining all those responsible for the incident will be difficult.

“Should everyone who was in the cafeteria be sanctioned or only those few that can be clearly identified as being a participant? What about those who knew it was going to happen but chose to stand outside the windows and watch?” she said.

Alexis Meyerman, a first-year student, said she was displeased at the thought of paying for someone else’s actions.

“But on the other hand,” Meyerman said. “Like many others I did not do enough, or anything to prevent [the food fight], in which case I should shoulder some of the responsibility.”

During the last week in March several first-year students passed along an MSN computer message asking for as many students as possible to arrive at Leonard Cafeteria at 6 p.m. on Apr. 2 prepared for a food fight.

Student Affairs received word of the threat and invited residence life staff, various faculty and administration and campus security to dinner as a preventative measure.

“In the past these measures have proven to be effective,” Denniston-Stewart said.

“They were not this time.”

At approximately 6 p.m. on Apr. 2 a first-year student wearing an army helmet and a sign reading, “Sodexho sucks” across his chest stood up during dinner, but campus security asked him to leave the cafeteria.

Several students sitting around the individual began booing at his dismissal and another individual began to throw food, signaling approximately 500 other students to throw food. Moments later broken plates, shattered glasses and Friday’s dinner littered the tables and floor.

Several students cut themselves on shards of glass or received minor bruises after being struck with food.

Tom Harris, the dean of the Faculty of Applied Science, who witnessed the entire event at Leonard with his wife Annette, expressed his disgust on the Sci ’07 message board.

“I wonder if those participating would like to justify their actions to the many volunteers who help in Kingston’s food banks and to those who rely on these services,” Harris wrote.

“This was the action of a large group of irresponsible students ... I was enormously embarrassed by what happened,” he wrote.

Many students expressed guilt for the food fight’s occurrence and took action to deal with the consequences of their actions.

The Sci ’07 executive organized a pizza and pop lunch on Sunday Apr. 4 and donated all profits to the AMS Food Bank. The event raised $330.

James McIntosh, former Main Campus Residents’ Council (MCRC) president, sent an e-mail to all first-year students with suggestions on how students could prevent negative consequences resulting from their actions.

The MCRC provided a discussion board where students could express their feelings and an e-mail address where students could write a formal apology to the Sodexho staff.

First-year student Evan Sterling said that witnessing the fiasco at Leonard changed his perspective of food fights as harmless fun, but he cautioned the MCRC’s initiative for requesting an apology from all first-year students.

“Mr. McIntosh seems to want all of us to apologize to Queen’s Residences and their staff, but do those of us who didn’t participate have any real reason to?” Sterling said.

“If students don’t understand how they are to blame, an apology from them is meaningless,” he said.

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