She's the dinning hall employee that brings a smile to the face of many students at the University of Miami. Some even go as far as saying that she's the only reason that they still eat at the on-campus cafeteria. But the students at UM are going to have to learn how to do without. The beloved dinning hall employee, Betty Asbury, was fired last week.
Betty Asbury, 55, was terminated on Oct. 10, when a man walked past her cashier post without paying the fee for breakfast. She says she didn't see the man walk by her because she was handling another customer that walked in.
Chartwells, the company in charge of that dinning hall and most other food services on the University of Miami's campus, hired Asbury two years ago.
Asbury says about an hour after the incident happened, her supervisor and manager pulled her into the office for questioning. She told them it was an honest mistake.
"I said, 'You know, I apologize. It was a human mistake and I overlooked someone who went through without paying. I really love my job, and I want to keep my job - write me up and I'll make sure it won't happen again,'" she said.
But the management did not believe her and with 15 years of cashier experience and two years served at the UM dinning hall, Asbury was fired.
It would have cost the man that walked by her post $6.80 for breakfast, but instead it cost the single mother her job.
Asbury was shocked by her manager's decision. She says that it was her first mistake on the job.
"I always got, 'Betty you're doing a wonderful job, you're a good employee, you're the best'."
She said she received the highest evaluation in the Hecht/Stanford Dinning Hall last year. In August her pay increased to $9.58 to reflect her superior performance.
After her termination, Asbury says that she tried to contact Leland Rapport, the resident district manager of Chartwells to appeal her dismissal.
According to Asbury, Rapport returned her call the following Tuesday and told her that he gathered the information he received from Asbury's manager matched her story - the man walked past her post and into the bathroom. Asbury says that she would have been relieved by this news, but Rapport told her that the decision couldn't be reversed.
Asbury was distraught. "I was at home crying, I couldn't sleep," she said. "All I could do was worry about my job - is I'm going to get my job back?"
In an instant, Asbury said that she felt as though she didn't have a voice.
"None of us Chartwells employees have a voice. If it happened to me, it can happen to somebody else," she said.
She wouldn't be left without a voice for long. UM students swiftly took action. One of her biggest supporters is graduate student Philipp Schwind. As soon as he caught wind of Asbury's dismissal he held an organizing meeting to create a roadmap to get her back. Days later a Facebook page titled "Bring Betty Back" was launched and had over 1,000 'likes'.
"Ms. Betty is one of the most beloved workers on campus," said Schwind. "She does not deserve to be fired without a proper investigation."
A proper investigation is exactly what he and more than 3,000 other UM students demanded. He launched an online petition on the website Change.Org to raise awareness and develop a backing for the reinstatement of Asbury.
It's no surprise that so many students at UM jumped behind this cause. Everyone can't stop talking about how they love "Ms. Betty".
"She's was just a joy, whenever I saw her," said 19-year-old freshman, Rachel Gibbler.
"She always made me feel like lunch was more than just eating," said 18-year-old freshman, Jake Fields. "It as being a part of a community."
The community spoke, and Chartwells listened. The company is sending a member of corporate human resources to Miami to review Asbury's termination.
UMTV was declined an interview. Instead Chartwells sent us this statement: "Based on our understanding of the facts, it does not appear that the former employee has provided complete information to the community. We are constrained from providing full details to the public."
Although the University of Miami has little input in the in outcome of the decision (because UM contracts the food service provider and does not own it), the administration insists that it is pushing for a fair and open case.
"This is an investigation that is going to be handled by Chartwells, she is their employee," said Jacqueline Menendez, University of Miami Vice President for Communications. "The University is going to make sure it is a fair investigation."
Despite the outpour of love and support by students, it is unclear whether or not Asbury will get her job back. But Asbury tries to remain optimistic.
"I'm ready to come back to work. I love the students. I miss you guys," said Asbury. "I will be back soon!"