On April 6, 2016, Keene State College students received an email from the Center of Health and Wellness warning that an Influenza Like Illness (ILI) had been spreading around campus. Immediately after the email was sent, students on the mobile app Yik Yak started posting concerns that the hand scanners in the Zorn Dining Commons were the reason germs were spreading so quickly.
Of the many people who were tested for flu-like symptoms in New England, 18.1 percent tested positive, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
General Manager of the Dining Services at KSC Josef Quirinale is responsible for every place that serves food on campus, including the dining commons, Lloyds, student center concessions and catering. He said that the hand scanners were built in with the dining commons in 2005. “Our campus client saw the hand scanners and thought it would be a really neat thing to have,” he said. “They felt it was cutting edge.”
Sophomore Monica Doorley said she thinks the hand scanners are “disgusting.” She said she visits the dining commons three times a day and has gotten sick twice this school year. Doorley said she uses the hand sanitizer after every hand scan.
Many students have noticed that the hand sanitizer isn’t always filled. Quirinale said they are filled as often as they need to be. “There’s always a time when they run out, and then we replace it when we know about it,” he said. He said the important thing for students to do is let a DC worker know when the hand sanitizer is out so it can be replaced. “We’re preparing 6,000 meals a day; sometimes we need a heads up as to when they run out,” Quirinale said.
As for the reason behind the scanners, Quirinale said it is for the safety of students. “That card is yours,” he said. “Your meal plan, your money, no one else should be utilizing that.” Quirinale said the hand scanners give [Dining Services] the opportunity to make sure that they are protecting the meal plan holder and that students are being provided with the food that they pay for.
Quirinale said there was a time when the DC would allow a student to punch in their student ID number if they forgot their card. He said that they eventually stopped doing that because students could easily memorize another student’s ID number and use it to visit the DC. “It really was not an ideal way,” he said.
KSC sophomore Benjamin Macdonald said he has never gotten sick from the germs on the hand scanners. “At most, it’s probably five seconds between the scanner and the hand sanitizer,” Macdonald said. “I can resist touching my face until then.”
MacDonald said he believes students use the hand scanners as a “scapegoat” for when they get sick.
He said hand sanitizer is a “very simple thing” that keeps students healthy. “It’s an easy way to keep yourself from being sick,” he said.
Quirinale said the hand scanners are not the only way germs spread on campus. “What about all of the door knobs that everyone touches?” Quirinale said. “There are two doors when entering the DC that everyone has put their hands on.”
He said the hand scanner is just “one of the many” places where everybody touches.
Quirinale said he promotes the idea of students washing their hands immediately after entering the DC.
He also said he has talked to his faculty about sanitation and encourages them to use a paper towel while exiting the bathroom after washing their hands.
“We at food services spend at least a minimum of 20 seconds washing our hands in 110 degree water with soap,” he said.
“Hand sanitizers are good, but if you’re going into the DC and you’re going to be eating a sandwich, pizza or fries, you should really go into the restroom and wash your hands,” Quirinale said. He said the washing of hands is the “best protection” against germs.
The Center for Health and Wellness was unavailable for comment.
MacKenzie Clarke can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org