By: Amanda Richey, News Editor
Rick Enloe, also known as “Mr. Rick,” redefined what it means to be part of the Furman Family.
Aramark and Dining Hall management asked Enloe to leave Furman mid-May, citing too many missed days at work as the explanation.
After Enloe’s termination, senior Jake Crouse spread the word to his Furman Facebook peers.
“I shared his post as a Facebook status originally just to ask if anybody had information about this, kind of in disbelief, but after a while we realized that’s what happened,” Crouse said.
Eighteen people shared Crouse’s May 18 status on their Facebook pages to spread the word about what happened. One of the people who saw the post was recent alum Matthew Morris.
Morris, a member of the Class of 2015 currently studying at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, started a petition on Change.org the next day.
“Though fully compliant with South Carolina laws, we believed that the termination of Mr. Rick by Aramark was not to the standards of Furman University. Furman is a family, no matter how many years pass or how far away you are,” Morris said via email.
The initial goal for the petition was 296 student signatures, roughly 10 percent of the student body at the time. This goal was surpassed, though, and the petition received more than 1300 signatures by the end of the first day.
The next morning, Morris and junior Hazel Davis began emailing the Furman Administration and Aramark asking for meetings. After giving Aramark an appropriate amount of time to respond, the duo jumped straight to the point, sending Aramark a formal request for Enloe to be offered his job back.
“Throughout the process, both Aramark and Furman responded to the Bring Back Mr. Rick campaign’s messages in a courteous, timely, and professional manner,” Morris said.
Morris and Davis did not submit their formal request for rehiring until after Morris contacted Enloe to verify that he would accept the job if it were reoffered. In a message posted to the Change.org petition site, Enloe said that the petition showed the true colors of the Furman community.
“[It is] so unbelievable, that there is that many that would care enough for me. I can honestly say that I am happy even if they say they do not want me back,” Enloe said in the message.
In addition to the email campaign, Crouse, Morris, Davis, and others continued to post on social media, keeping students, alumni, and members of the Greenville community connected to each other and informed of Enloe’s position.
Students and alumni from all over the world posted photos of themselves holding signs reading “Bring Back Mr. Rick” or “Furman Loves Mr. Rick.”
Despite this love, however, many students wondered if Enloe even wanted to return to his position at Furman. They both praised and criticized the methodology of the “Bring Back Mr. Rick” campaign, creating their own alternative student groups. One such group proposed that every member should write “letters of recommendation” to Aramark demonstrating Enloe’s value as an employee rather than simply signing a petition.
Finally, Aramark did more than simply respond to protesters; it took action, formally offering Rick Enloe a position at Furman on May 26.
“Eight days after we found out about his termination, he was given his job back by Aramark,” Crouse said. “It was important that students did it.”
“When we heard from Mr. Rick that he had been asked to come back, his gratitude and excitement to be back were so humbling, and it was one of the best things to happen that summer,” Davis said via email. “I hope in the future this sets a precedent for student involvement.”
Aramark Food Service Director Adam Summer also commented on student concern in Dining Hall affairs.
“We understand and appreciate student interest in our employees,” Summer said via email. “We have a great deal of respect for our employees and appreciate how hard they work every day to serve the campus.”
As for Enloe, he is more than happy to be back.
“I was completely overwhelmed,” Enloe said. “You never realize that you have that kind of impact on people’s lives until you see something like this happen.”
Photo courtesy of Matthew Morris