A UConn student is trying to turn bad publicity from a viral video of a student's mac and cheese meltdown that led to an arrest into something good.
A usually mundane macaroni and cheese night at UConn turned controversial after a video circulated of a reportedly drunk UConn freshman, Luke Gatti, 19, of Bayville, New York, berating food service workers who refused to sell him jalapeno-bacon macaroni and cheese at Union Street Market. The incident led to his arrest.
His reportedly belligerent behavior left a bad taste in people’s mouths including UConn freshman Sadie Rumsey. Many in the community seem to be applauding the market manager's actions -- and the staff -- for taking that student down and getting the situation under control.
So, to thank the Union Street Market staff, she set up a page on GoFundMe.com in hopes of giving the workers involved a night out.
"We need to show that the people who are here are intelligent, they are smart, they are thoughtful, they are caring and we care about this community," Rumsey said.
The goal was to raise $500 to treat them to a dinner at Geno's Grill. As of Monday, her page had collected more than $2,000, which Rumsey said is "kind of surreal." After just a few days, more than 150 people dug into their pockets to donate, more than doubling her initial goal.
"We really are thankful for them and this one bad representation of UConn isn’t a representation of all of us," Rumsey said, adding that "we’re very thankful and very supportive as a community"
Many students support the initiative to treat the dining staff to dinner.
"If they got out it would be cool," Briana Salmon, a UConn freshman, said.
Fellow UConn freshman Jordan Hatten said that "honestly, just being in that dining hall and seeing them do their thing, it's like, wow, and y'all gotta pick up after us too, so it's like y'all need a break. Honestly, that labor is tough."
A statement from UConn says that the shows of support for dining service workers are moving, but state law and UConn policies do not allow employees to receive gifts related to their employment. The school, however, is considering doing something to recognize the workers.
"State law and UConn policies restrict gifts they can receive related to their employment, but the University is discussing ways to do something special to recognize our dining services workers -- not just for the handling of this incident, but also for the ongoing hard work they provide our students, employees and guests," Stephanie Reitz, a spokesperson for UConn, said in a statement.
The university also adds that they are working with Sadie Rumsey to figure out what they’ll do with the money.
A local restaurant, D.P. Dough, began adding jalapeno to its bacon mac and cheese calzones after last Sunday's incident. It has donated $600 to a children's cancer charity from the profits.
Franchise owner Cory Hill said he's gone through 125 pounds of macaroni and cheese in a week, up from the usual 20.
The incident also inspired a special dish at Theodores' Booze Blues & BBQ in Springfield, Massachusetts, masslive.com reported.
A nine-minute expletive-laden video posted on YouTube last Monday appears to show Gatti confronting the market manager because he wanted bacon-jalapeno mac and cheese, then shoving the man several times as apparent students tried to intervene. The manager had denied him service and asked him to leave because he was caught drinking in the market, according to police. The video goes on to show a staff member at the market eventually wrestle Gatti to the ground and detain him until police arrived. The video has since been taken down from YouTube.
"Just let me get some (expletive) mac and cheese man," Gatti is seen telling the Union Street Market manager as he demands to be served in the video that went viral on social media.
NBC Connecticut previously reached out to Gatti for comment, but he has not responded.
However, he has since released an apology on YouTube saying that the workers didn’t deserve to be treated that way. As of Monday afternoon, Gatti was still enrolled at the university.
According to court records from Massachusetts, Gatti was arrested twice in 2014, when he was a student at the University of Massachusetts and before enrolling at UConn.
He was charged with disorderly conduct in one case and disorderly conduct and assault and battery on a police officer in the other.
No information was immediately available on the outcome of either case.
Gatti is due in court on Tuesday to answer to charges of breach of peace and criminal trespass in the mac and cheese debacle.