Students weigh in on grease trucks issue
University officials are still discussing the future of the grease trucks and plans to send out a survey to students in an attempt to hear the consumers’ side in the upcoming weeks.
But some have already made up their minds.
“I’m kind of upset that they are trying to get them off,” said Alex Bugowski, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. “They’ve been around for so long that they are a Rutgers tradition now, and they should be here.”
For business and health reasons alike, the University may open the space to bidders, endangering the grease trucks’ 18-year-long stay.
One potential change could require the lot occupants to be mobile from 3 to 6 a.m.
A major problem is cost for the University. The trucks’ owners currently pay rent of $62,400 total per year, leaving the University with a $93,467 deficit since 2007 because of security, electric and grease removal, according to data provided by Jack Molenaar, director of the Department of Transportation Services.
“They should work something out with Rutgers that could help the University out because it’s not fair that they are kind of getting a break,” Bugowski said. “But I think they should still be around because it’s a tradition here.”
Bugowski said a more diverse choice of food would be a good thing because all of the grease trucks serve the same food, but they still remain a part of the University.
Other students disagreed.
“I find them filthy,” said Michael Saunders, a Mason Gross School of the Arts junior. “I only get the falafel. I wouldn’t get anything else.”
Saunders took a health-conscious stance on the matter and said the grease trucks only push students into making unhealthy eating decisions.
“They encourage kids to make unhealthy choices,” Saunders said. “I guess some other food vendor is better suited and may help them make better choices, eat better.”
He said there is also a lack of food diversity since all five grease trucks serve similar food, leaving students with few alternatives.
“It’s just different trucks serving the same thing,” Saunders said.
He said the grease trucks are also a financial burden on the University, as figures show.
The vendors cost the University $32,725 in the 2010-2011 school year alone, as electricity and cleaning costs rose, according to Molenaar. The potential new conditions would make the trucks mobile again, therefore cutting costs.
“They are a burden on our University,” Saunders said. “I go to Mason Gross and we don’t have a lot of money to begin with, so if that’s going back to us, that’s cool.”
Joseph Tadros, a School of Engineering senior, said although the tradition of the grease trucks matters, he supports more choices in addition to the current vendors.
“I like the idea of having a choice, but that [space] should be designated for the grease trucks, and they should stay there mostly because of tradition,” Tadros said.
The grease trucks matter to the University’s reputation, he said. They are a part of a certain image students from other universities see and want to experience.
“People from other schools come here for the grease trucks,” Tadros said. “We are not voted the biggest party school or anything like that, [but] we have the best fat sandwich — that is what we are known for.”
The trucks are known worldwide for their fat sandwiches and have received accolades not just from publications like Sports Illustrated and Maxim, but literally from around the world, Ayman Elnaggar, owner of the RU Hungry? truck, told The Daily Targum.
Tadros said the University should take into account the environmental impact of whoever occupies the space.
Sue Dickison, health safety specialist for environmental projects at the University, said at a preliminary University committee meeting on the issue that the trucks were responsible for several grease spills and have disposed of used fryer oil incorrectly.
“They should be getting fined if they break the rules,” Tadros said. “I think they should be more environmentally friendly. You can’t just dump oil down the drain.”
Elnaggar told the Targum that outside establishments often dump extra trash into their dumpsters and dispose of grease into their drums, as the area is unlocked. Elnaggar said he and his staff take as many precautions as possible.
Peter Mikhail, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, agreed with the notion of any vendor having to comply with University requirements.
“If they comply and pay, they should stay,” Mikhail said.