Students had a lot to say about the quality and price of food on campus at the first ever town hall meeting that was held by a new committee on campus called Student Voice on Wednesday, Oct. 29.
The meeting was held in West Side Dining, and the purpose was to give the students a chance to voice their opinions in front of the new committee, as well as Campus Dining Services and the Faculty Student Association.
“Student Voice is a new on-campus student group centered around the needs of students,” Kevin Conn, the advisor for the committee, said. “So dining needs, dining concerns, dining improvements—it represents everybody from each quad on campus.”
There are two committee members from each quad as well as two commuter student representatives. As students entered the town hall meeting, they were handed yellow flyers with the committee members’ contact information on the back.
There was not a packed house, but the students who did attend were certainly vocal about their concerns.
Sunjum Dhariwal, a junior majoring in psychology, spoke out multiple times during the meeting about how she wants to see more healthy options for a better price.
Dhariwal is the senior vice president of the Residence Hall Association.
“We are constantly trying to work with students from different organizations to try and improve campus life,” Dhariwal said about RHA. She said that is why she attended the town hall meeting—in order to get information to students.
“My biggest issue is pricing on campus,” she said as she mentioned that she works on a tight budget. “It’s really hard to pay out of pocket for a meal.”
The price of food on campus seemed to be a concern of almost all of the students who attended the meeting. The yellow brochures that were distributed contained a food cost breakdown chart for the students that explained how the money is actually distributed. The chart gives the breakup in percentages of the food costs, culinary labor, facilities and equipment fees, etc.
A main point that was brought up throughout the meeting is price consistency. Dhariwal said that the price of salad from the SAC salad bar is “outrageous” and way more than from the Student Union.
“Nobody should be spending that much on healthy food,” she said.
Another student, Page Keating, a sophomore majoring in anthropology and biology, agreed that she would like to see more fresh produce on campus, but not for the high price that it is sold for in the SAC.
The students were also given a survey that was calculated on the spot. According to the student survey, the things students want to see most of an improvement on are prices and price consistency, wait time for food, the variety healthy options and an increase in special dishes.
Student Dave Karpf, a senior majoring in health science, was very vocal about his dissatisfaction with the quality of food he is receiving for his money. He said that he would rather see more dorms being put up on campus that have kitchens in them than new dining halls that offer all-you-can-eat.
Some of the changes that have already been made this semester include meal plan points now carrying over to future semesters if unused, J-Club accepting meal plans and an increase in student employment.
Even though the commitee mentioned these changes are seen as a big improvement, the meeting made it evident that there are still changes that need to be made in order to satisfy the students on campus.
Thomas Kirnbauer, the vice president for the FSA Board of Directors, said during the meeting that in order to enact changes, the students need to step up and express what the things are they really want to see on campus. He said that the school will not be as willing to invest the money into something unless the see that the majority of students really want it.
When students brought up the issue of long wait times, one of the committee members, Gustavo Poszidonio, mentioned an idea that is in the works for a phone app that would tell students what dining halls are empty at what times.
Kirnbauer also informed students of another idea in the works that would give students the ability to choose meal points for some purchases and a “swipe plan” for all you can eat for another.
Andrew Greene, production chef from Campus Dining Services, was at the meeting and was able to interact with the students.
“The chefs that I work with, we love being here, we really do,” he said. He assured that his chefs will raise the bar if the students want it raised. He said that he is here to work with students, saying, “We’re here for you.”
He also encouraged students to approach him if they have an issue or a request. He wants to hear from students and wants to help.
The main sentiment that the meeting strove to emphasize was that the students’ opinion does matter and that with enough people speaking up, things can change. The committee members said they plan to have more meetings and hope to see more people in the future.
“Your opinion matters,” Montserrat Escobio, one of the student committee members, said. “We’re working hard. Give us time.”