By Layan Doueik
LAU Tribune staff
It is noon. The lunch break just started and students pile up in long queues inside the LAU cafeteria to get food.
Despite their keenness to satisfy their appetites as quickly as possible, the crowd stands patiently as each waits for his or her turn. But a tall young man suddenly breaks into the line, winks at the cafeteria employee, calls him by his first name and says; “As usual bro, with extra mayonnaise.”
The young man’s friend raises his hand and adds; “I’m with him, make them two sandwiches.”
During peak hours at the LAU cafeteria, favoritism is a clear trend. With wasta so engrained in Lebanese society, it is not surprising to find that students who befriend the premises’ employees get preferential treatment.
Journalism senior Ranim Hadid, who admits that she occasionally gets special treatment, says that a student nonetheless took her turn once and was served within seconds.
“He knew her order without asking because she is a regular costumer. This was unfair because I had a class that was about to start,” Hadid, who had been waiting for her salad ahead of the other young woman, complained.
Others confirm but do not even realize the problem.
A business student points to a particular employee at the cafeteria, saying that he is “nice.” “He gives me fries while I’m waiting for my food to finish and takes good care of my sandwich,” she said.
Although she is concerned with favoritism at the cafeteria, Nehmat Aoun, director of hospitality, believes that such a trend may be limited to “regular customers.”
“Probably this happens only with usualcostumers where the worker becomes familiar with the type of food,” she said. “But still this shouldn’t happen if there are people waiting.”
Both Aoun and campus hostess Loubna Asmar point out that they have not received any complaints regarding favoritism at the cafeteria.
“We check the cafeteria frequently and we never notice such actions taking place,” Asmar said. “Probably some students have become regular costumers so the workers are more familiar with their orders.”
A year ago, Socrates Catering became the new caterer after the hospitality committee received many complaints regarding favoritism for particular students and instructors.
Journalism student Lyn Abu-Seraj says she recently faced clear favoritism.
Abu-Seraj ordered the daily plate and handed it to the employee. Although she was the only student facing the counter, the employee put the young woman’s bill aside and told her to wait for her turn as he served six plates. By the time he was done, there were no daily platter portions left.
The cafeteria manager, Sameh Abdalrazak, says that favoritism –if it does exist at the cafeteria– is only a rare occurrence. “According to my knowledge, there is no such phenomenon happening, probably in my absence and it is one percent,” Abdelrazak said.
“Let’s not forget that some students may overreact sometimes,” he added.
Luckily enough, I was in the cafeteria when a “rare” incident happened.
A young man rushed inside, high-fived the employee and ordered a sandwich that was already done. “I am going to pay for it at the cashier and come and take it immediately,” the young man said.
The employee, who faced an impatient crowd, prepared his order. “La’yunak,” he said. Next to him were several untouched orders.
Abdelrazak urged students to give their feedback on the quality of food and services provided by the cafeteria, insisting that the cafeteria’s management would issue warnings or even dismiss employees who are subject of frequent complaints.
Nour Seif, a radio/TV/film student, believes that the workers at the cafeteria are very friendly and they don’t deserve to be seen as promoting preferential treatment.
“So what if he added some more fries knowing that I always order food from him?” she asked.
Aoun insists that the hospitality department has rules and regulations that aim to serve students on “first-come first-served” basis. She and Asmar assured us that Tribune’s concerns will be taken into consideration, ensuring that such “special treatment” won’t happen again.
“The plate that is served to the president is the same in quantity and quality to that of the student,” Aoun said.