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Campus responds to Pizza Hut rodent video

By Larshell Green
On December 5, 2017

The screen capture above from the video posted on Twitter appears to show a rodent scurrying across boxes in Pizza Hut’s storage area. Courtesy of Dwayne Smith Jr.

Campus administrators chose to respond promptly after a video surfaced on Twitter involving a dining facility that returned to campus this fall. The social media post generated conversations about health and safety concerns within campus dining venues. 

On Tuesday, Nov. 14 at 9:34 p.m., a student uploaded a video to Twitter of what appears to be a small rodent in the campus Pizza Hut. 

Auxiliary Services Director of Marketing, and Strategic Initiatives Robin Parker revealed that despite popular beliefs, the incident did not actually occur in the area of Pizza Hut where food is prepared or served. 

“I do know that the incident did not occur in Pizza Hut,” said Parker. “It occurred in a storage area adjacent to Pizza Hut.”

The dining venue is located in the Student Union War Memorial Breezeway and is connected to the Marketplace Provisions on Demand. 

While freshman communication student Dwayne Smith Jr. was attending a Kappa Alpha Psi founder’s day event, he uploaded the video to Twitter about ten minutes after witnessing the incident. Smith disclosed why he chose to share the video so quickly on social media.  

“I decided to post the video of the rodent in Pizza Hut because everyone eats there, and I eat there as well,” said Smith. “At the time that the rodent was seen, there were multiple people around and that all saw the incident.”

Dining Services chose to respond to the video soon after it gained traction online. 

In the comments section of the video posted from Smith’s Twitter account, Dining Services tweeted the following response a day after Smith posted the video, on Thursday, Nov. 16:  “We apologize. This is unacceptable and not consistent with our high standards. The point of entry has been sealed and area has been sanitized. We pride ourselves in providing an enjoyable dining experience 100% of the time, and have taken steps to ensure this does not reoccur.”

During the video, it appears that a rodent in crawling and standing atop of boxes. In the beginning, multiple students can be seen reacting with laughter and shock at the incident. Midway through the 18 second video shot from the side door of Pizza Hut, Smith zooms in to showcase the movement of the rodent. 

As of Monday, Dec. 4, the video received 95 retweets and 80 likes. 

Director of Public and Governmental Affairs Erin Cowser described her opinion of how Dining Services responded to the incident.

Cowser said, “They were prompt in their response as soon as it was brought to their attention.”

Although Cowser chose not to go into detail about the incident, she explained that the surfacing of the video prompted the actions of Dining Services, which included sanitizing the area. 

According to Parker, when Dining Services were alerted of the video on Wednesday, Nov. 15, the storeroom was cleaned and sanitized before noon on the same day. She explains what other steps were taken to ensure cleanliness of Pizza Hut. 

“The rodent was captured as well since it was confined to the storeroom once it came from the drop ceiling and could not return,” said Parker.  “The storeroom has door sweeps installed so it could not escape to other areas. Because the video mentioned Pizza Hut, Dining Services was obligated to inform Pizza Hut of the situation.  At approximately 5 p.m. on the 15th, Pizza Hut asked us to close the store until they could get an Ecosure inspection completed.  The inspector completed her inspection at approximately 11:30 am on Thursday, Nov. 16th.  Pizza Hut re-opened immediately after inspection was passed.”

Several students dining in Pizza Hut on Thursday, Nov. 30 shared their comments on the incident. All three students were previously not aware of the video.

Senior political science major Justin LaFleur has ordered pasta at Pizza Hut. He explained his reaction to the news.

“Had I seen the video online, it definitely would have played a role in deciding whether or not to eat here again,” said LaFleur. “I guess that there would have to be some proof that they are tightening the regulations on cleanliness for me to feel a little bit better. I wouldn’t have thought that they would have been that dirty because they’re new, that’s surprising to me.”

Sophomore integrated biology major with a concentration in biology pre-med Andrew Booth admitted that had he seen the video prior to ordering a pepperoni pizza and coke, he probably would not have still dined there. He detailed what methods he believes that Dining Services should take to improve the issue.

Booth explained, “The smartest move would be to bring in an exterminator to look and see if there is actually a rat problem. “They could close down for a day or two to actually find out if there is a problem and deal with it, and have an inspection to make sure it is clean.” 

Biology student Lindsey Hutcheson admitted that although she eats at Pizza Hut about once a month, she is not completely discouraged from dining there. 

Hutcheson explained, “I’ve heard stories like this at a bunch of other places where people eat. I do think that Dining Services should utilize pest control, but I’ll feel better if they tell us that they got rid of it.” 

On Monday, Dec. 4, senior business major with a concentration in human resources Push Phillips shared his expertise of the incident from the viewpoint of someone who works in the food service industry. 

“No matter what you do to avoid rodents, they find their way into an area,” said Phillips. “All you can do is kill it or sanitize it. I appreciate that they didn’t sweep the issue under the rug. Working in the food industry, we know we’ll be held liable if anything happens, therefore I’m confident that they will sanitize the area.”  

Smith described his hopes for Dining Services’ improvements: “I really think that overall, the dining on campus can be a little better than what it is. I think food in the Mane Dish can be better as well.”

Parker explained how the department has chosen to improve and move forward following the incident.

“As we are now more than two weeks removed from this resolved situation, we remain focused on providing quality products and superior customer service to our campus community,” said Parker. “Multiple immediate actions were taken to remedy the situation, prevent it from recurring and we remain in continued commitment to provide an exemplary dining experience for our customers.”

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