By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATAN — Pace University students are planning a boycott of the school's cafeteria after health inspectors found a slew of health violations there last week.
The city shut down Pace's main dining hall, along with the school's coffee kiosk and late-night eatery, last Thursday after observing workers touching food with their bare hands and storing perishable items at unsafe temperatures.
The 79 violation points also included citations for dirty clothing, no soap in the bathroom and un-sanitized cloths.
"It's unacceptable considering the prices they charge us," said Ashley Cetinkaya, 19, a Pace freshman who plans to buy her lunch elsewhere from now on. "I'm not going to be eating there again."
While the city allowed the cafeteria to reopen after a follow-up inspection last Friday yielded just 12 violation points, many students said they do not trust that enough has changed. They are organizing a boycott of the cafeteria for Tuesday, and so far more than 700 students have said on Facebook that they will participate.
A Pace spokesman said the university is meeting with students this week "to discuss their grievances and the university’s plans for addressing them."
A spokeswoman for Lackmann Culinary Services, which runs the cafeteria, said health and safety are the company's top priorities. Lackmann plans to hire a full-time sanitarian and has already made changes to better monitor food temperatures, the spokeswoman said. Students said they noticed the staff wearing gloves for the first time.
While several students said they were surprised to see the cafeteria shut down last week, others said they had noticed the unsanitary conditions beforehand.
"I felt like it was going to happen eventually," said Orlando Olave, 22, a Pace senior who said he knew several people who believe they have gotten food poisoning from the cafeteria. "[The workers'] aprons are usually dirty, and they wipe their hands on them."
Students at the cafeteria on Monday brought in food from Au Bon Pain and Chipotle, but dozens still lined up for the hot-meal offerings, like burgers and turkey chili.
Some students said they want a new company to take over the dining hall, while others said they want more choice about their meal plans, including the ability to spend the money at off-campus restaurants.
Maggie Anderson, 19, a freshman, also was no fan of Pace's food, and said she only eats fruit and packaged foods at the cafeteria..
"It's the worst food I've had in my entire life," she said. "When I first got here, I wanted to die."
Pace's town hall meeting will be held March 30 at 12:15 p.m. in Lecture Hall North. The Student Government Association is holding its own meeting on the issue March 29 from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. in classroom W613. Both events are only open to members of the Pace community.