By Kyra Lipetzky
At about 9 a.m. on Feb. 15, one end of Placid Hall suffered a power outage. At the same time, the sight and smell of smoke permeated the cafeteria, eyewitnesses reported.
“All I saw when I walked into the cafeteria was a layer of light smoke and you could smell something burning. Not to be too excessive but it seemed like a cliche French café,” Desmond Stone, a senior history major, said.
Stone added that other students had told him that “the power to the Caf was lost and the fans weren’t able to filter the smoke from the oven outside,” so the smoke instead filled the area inside.
Kateri Strub, a freshman English major who was also in the cafeteria at the time, heard a guess that the power outage was caused by the construction occurring outside, but was unsure as to where the smoke was coming from.
“I had to leave as soon as I was done eating because it was really smoky, and my eyes were watering,” she said.
Other students in the mailroom area also claimed to smell smoke.
For a while, said Levente Kiss, a cafeteria staff member and Hungarian exchange student, the cafeteria continued to serve hot food.
“But as power wasn’t coming back on, the chefs were concerned about proper food safety and decided that we should stop serving hot food and switch to cold,” Kiss said. Both Kiss and Strub observed that the food was covered in plastic wrap in order to retain as much heat as possible.
After the smoke became too dense and the cafeteria was closed to those who were eating, steps were taken to remove the smoke, Kiss explained.
“Some workers brought in portable industrial fans and both the dining team leaders and the SVC fire department were there,” he said.
Due to the cafeteria’s early closure and disrupted operations, many students ordered from the Shack. Since COVID-19 precautions forced students to spread out, a large line was formed that wrapped around the outskirts of the dining space. In order to manage the overflow of orders, the staff pulled out a cart to distribute meals more efficiently. Despite some instances in which specifics of students’ orders were missing, it appeared that the system worked efficiently given the circumstances.
Saint Vincent Dining Services has been offered the opportunity to comment on the matter. The Review will provide updated information once it becomes available.