Water outage results in free BBQ

USD students wait in line for free BBQ due to the water outage that occurred throughout campus. Lilyana Espinoza/The USD Vista

Last week on Sept. 14, an unexpected water outage gripped the University of San Diego campus, shutting down water fountains and bathrooms from the Student Life Pavilion and University Centre to the Kroc Institute of Peace and Justice and the School of Leadership and Educational Studies.

Carol Norman, Director of Dining, further explained the events that occurred from that day.

“We received a call from operations that water was low and turning off so we immediately contacted facilities,” Norman said. “They found a water main break outside of campus, but we had no idea what caused it or how long it would be out.”

Students were notified as soon as possible via an email from USD Facilities Management. The water outage was caused by a major water leak on Morena Boulevard which created a loss in water pressure. Norman confirmed that the water outage was not linked to the sinkhole that simultaneously occurred on I-8.

According to Norman, the San Diego health department requires facilities to shut down if a water shortage occurs.

“We went to our fallout plan in case of emergencies,” Norman said. “We look at facilities on campus, where the food is, what we have on house, and how fast we can pull it all together. It was a makeshift kitchen, and we utilized the Embers BBQ that we can now use for emergency situations. There were enough burgers and hotdogs to feed about 6,000 people for lunch that day and 3,000 for dinner.”

Senior Julia Torgerson said she was bombarded with text messages from friends telling her to join them for the free food outside SLP.

“I had originally seen the email from school saying that all food services were shut down and since I had not packed a lunch for the day I was confused about what I should do for lunch,” Torgerson said. “It made me super happy to hear about the free food. When you’re working on a college budget, any chance to get free food makes the day exponentially better.”

Torgerson stated that there was a lot of confusion from people  who were wondering why there was a water outage. “Some people did joke about the fact that since USD was giving out free food, that if next year’s tuition is higher we would know why,” Torgerson said.

Toreros lined up for a free lunch of BBQ chicken, hamburgers, salads, beans and rice combo, water bottles, and several snacks, including a vegan station option. Some faculty members were in charge of directing the flow of the lunch lines, while others passed out water bottles.

“I thought this was a very good solution to the fact that none of the food vendors on campus were open,” Torgerson said. “I thought they had a really good variety of options available to students and they monitored the lines very well so it never felt like I would have to wait in line for a long time. I would say I was in and out of the line in about 5 minutes. I thought it was especially kind that they were giving out water bottles because I was searching for a place to fill up my water bottle the whole morning.”

Torgerson stated that she enjoyed witnessing a lot of happy faces receiving free food.

“For some reason when food is free, college students seem to think it’s ‘so good’ or ‘amazing’ even if the food might be mediocre,” Torgerson said. “I loved the community that generated around the outside of the SLP that day. I have never seen that many students eating outside together, whether it was at a table or on the grass. I sat with people that day that I haven’t seen for awhile and it gave me the opportunity to bond with people outside of my usual friend group.”

After several hours without water on campus, the water was restored and the campus community was able to use the full range of campus facilities.

Norman explained that although the water came back midway through lunchtime, her department still had to continue with their plan. “We ended up feeding approximately 2,000 students and faculty,” Norman said. “There is an emergency fallback if it happens again. We have enough food in our facilities to feed the campus up to three to five days. We can also pull variety to change up the meals if need be for several days.”

Torgerson expressed that the school was very transparent about the situation and what was going on. “The fact that they were willing to feed all the students for free was very thoughtful and generous because when it happened, my immediate thought was ‘What are the on-campus residents going to do to get food if they don’t have a car?’” Torgerson said. “The happiness I saw around campus that day made me think that USD should offer more free food every once in awhile.”

The university’s facilities and dining departments were quick to action in order to provide food on campus, and students appeared to have no complaints.

Taylor Reviere Verninas | Editor In Chief | The USD Vista