Some start work before the sun is up. Others don’t leave until well past midnight. The work isn’t easy; staff are always on their feet, and may go hours without a break. Yet so many students take the work of Dining Hall staff for granted.
Not Richard Anderson. The first-year student from Naperville, IL, was unfailingly polite to dining staff for the duration of his Pre-Orientation program, never failing to say, “thank you,” and continued to be patient and respectful through his first dinner with a new group of housemates.
Anderson's parents told The Dealer that they were surprised by this newfound development. “He was always a nice boy,” said his mother Roseanne. “But he was so surly in high school. It sounds like that’s gone.”
Veteran dining associate Peter Johnson predicted this newfound politeness would survive a week of classes at least. “The house parties usually do it. Kids who are trying to turn over a new leaf, be more positive, impress their housemates – they know that’s over by Sunday morning. It’s happened before.”
Last year, Jane Smith, a new student from Palo Alto, CA, caused a stir by greeting Baker Dining Commons staff with a smile for almost a month. But Johnson’s skepticism was vindicated after Smith took her first Kiswahili midterm.
Still, some believe Anderson will be an exception to this rule. Earlier this week, the University of Chicago News Office highlighted his efforts in an e-mail touting the University’s commitment to a more just Chicago. In recognition of Anderson’s work, he will receive the inaugural Kenneth C. Griffin Award for Community Service.
Anderson himself downplayed the significance of his actions. “I’ve always tried to understand the experiences of working people,” he told the Dealer. “Sure, they didn’t go to a fancy college – like this one, for instance. Maybe they can’t afford to endow a new building, or fund my summer internship, but they work just as hard as any of us, and they deserve respect too. It’s not a lot to ask. If more students showed kindness and respect to others, we wouldn’t even be talking about this.”
At press time, Anderson walked into Cathey Dining Commons, yawned, and pointed wordlessly at a dish of scrambled eggs – only to hurriedly look up from his phone and say, “Please.”