Duquesne caught a bug: Duquesne restoring trust with students after pests are found in Union kitchen

Emma Polen | News Editor | Austen Peterson (left) and Ryan Hanshaw (right) eat an Incline at Cinco dinner on the fifth floor of the Union while Incline was still closed.

Emma Polen | News Editor

Jan. 26, 2023

Following a week-long closure, Incline dining services are up-and-running again.

On Jan. 17, Incline suddenly closed at 2 pm

A message from the FoodU app notified students immediately on Tuesday that their campus dining options would change that same day.

“The Incline will be closed today at 2 pm until further notice. Please visit the Cinco location from 5 pm-10 pm for your fav Incline items,” the FoodU message read.

The closure occurred after an increase in pests over the weekend at the Incline, said university spokesman Gabe Welsch in an email.

“The university closed the location so that our pest control company could do a more extensive thorough examination and treatment,” Welsch said.

The pest control companies that work with Duquesne frequent the food establishments on campus two to three times a week for “regular maintenance and inspection,” according to Welsch.

“In this case, the company identified that the increase in activity was not food-related but due to other sources where a pest had gained access to a food area. We are aggressively addressing the situation,” Welsch said.

Dead cockroaches were found in the main kitchen area of the Union, he said, and the solution to eliminate the pests was to eliminate, or “seal,” possible access points.

Some students expressed frustration at the closure.

Incline food was served on the fifth floor of the Union, at the Cinco dining location, until the situation had been solved. Cinco’s normal hours of operation continued, with a period of limited mobile ordering hours through the Transact Mobile Ordering app 4 to 6:30 pm Incline was offered at Cinco 4 pm to 10 pm Monday – Friday and 10 am to 10 pm Saturday – Sunday.

“I miss the grilled cheese,” senior Alex Barr said on Tuesday of this week.

“I’m glad that they were able to accommodate in some capacity,” Barr said, “but…I just want them to be back to normal.”

“I’m really not thrilled,” junior Grace Reitz said. “If we’re paying for this [meal plan], you should tell us what’s going on even if it was a brief statement. We got no communication.”

Gina Sabol, junior, also complained about the lack of communication from the university about the incident at Incline.

“This is not the first time they’ve not communicated changes with us,” Sabol said. She had trouble with printing at Gumberg Library following Duquesne’s total website redesign which was never communicated with students, before or after the total change to the website’s format.

Communication was constructive, however, when Duquesne auxiliary offices and Parkhurst dining took the “power to the people” and invited a group of Duquesne students to a first-ever student focus group on Monday to discuss on-campus dining options in the sixth-floor Union conference room.

Following last week’s events, Parkhurst management in attendance spoke about their role in the health and safety of students eating on campus.

“The health and safety is really important,” said Nick Marcarelli, resident district manager of Parkhurst dining.

In his position, Marcarelli oversees every step of dining operations, including maintaining healthy and safe facilities in Hogan dining hall.

In Hogan, Marcarelli and his staff member Gayle Musulin walk through the facility to observe from food prep to presentation, he said.

In specific allergy-free areas, the observation is even stricter. In Hogan’s newest allergy-free zone, Inspired EATS, auditors come in even more regularly to assure that the food remains uncontaminated, said Amy Steedle, marketing for auxiliary services.

With the panel on Monday, Marcarelli and the rest of Parkhurst dining hoped to hear about students’ on-campus dining needs with actual students.

“We’re trying to listen, we’re trying to get what you want,” Marcarelli said.

Marcarelli has been overseeing the dining operations at Duquesne for less than a year since he took over as resident district manager September.

“We’ve been here a short time, but we really want to make this program great. And we can’t do it without you,” Marcarelli told students at the focus group.

Will Trainor, fourth-year environmental science student, joined the student panel on Monday with Parkhurst.

Following the Incline’s reopening, Trainor was concerned about the lingering effects that extermination chemicals might have in the Incline dining area. However, he was pleased with how dining services handled the situation and voiced his thoughts at the student focus group.

“[The focus group] did help reinforce that knowledge that Parkhurst really tries its best to work with/for students. Since the Incline closed last week, my thoughts haven’t really changed. I still think it’s good food and great people who work there,” he said in an email after the student panel.

Nathan Gierczynski, junior pre-law student and SGA vice president of Student Life, appreciated the chance to share his own opinions with dining staff.

“Monday’s focus group strengthened my view that the Parkhurst team is dedicated to providing the best dining experience possible,” he said.

While discussing how to improve Campus Market offerings to students, Marcarelli expressed an interest in hearing about these suggestions directly from students.

“We don’t know everything,” Marcarelli said. “We want you to be our partners in that, and that will help build community.”

Marcarelli hopes that he can meet with students for more focus groups in the future.

Alex Iracheta, director of retail, outlined the ways that students could reach out with comments and suggestions outside of the in-person student panels.

“We do have a lot of avenues for feedback,” he said. Specifically, the self-checkout kiosks that were introduced in the various express markets across campus have a QR code that allows students to share directly with dining services.

Both social media and dining@duq.edu are also outlets for student feedback, Iracheta said.

“We do look at [student comments] and respond to those,” Iracheta assured students at the focus group.

Students can once again enjoy their favorites at Incline, the snack pack station and Duq Station Salads & Subs, which are back to their normal hours of operation: 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Feedback is also available on the FoodU app under each listed dining option.