Campus Dining / Megan Miller / Campus Dining

The new meal swipe system has caused frustration and anger among many Stony Brook University students. A sit-in has been organized for Sept. 7 at West Side Dining during Campus Life Time, an opportunity for students to demonstrate their concerns. MEGAN MILLER / STATESMAN FILE

It goes without saying that Campus Dining is an integral part of college life. Every day, scores of students stroll in and out of Roth Café, West Side Dining, Union Commons, Jasmine and of course, Starbucks.

Over the summer, many changes to the meal plans and dining options occurred in hopes of improving the dining experience, but some students aren’t so happy about them.

So, what’s in and what’s out?

The most drastic change by far is the change from a budgeting system to a meal swipe system. This system came about after a discussion between the FSA and Campus Dining following complaints about the lack of community and perceived value of the available dining options at SBU, according to John Mele, head of Student Voice on Campus Dining (SVCD).

Now, instead of paying for individual dishes, at certain locations, students pay a fee at the door or simply swipe their ID card. In this all-you-can-eat system, students can eat as much as they want until they leave. An issue many students have is that they are required to eat within the confines of the dine-in building and cannot take food, drinks or silverware outside to eat on the go.

If students want to buy items at retail locations, then they have to use cash, load up their cards with Dining Dollars via their meal plan or use Wolfie Wallet. These various retail options on campus such as Jasmine, Starbucks and the Union Deli continue to generate a steady flow of customers.

The meal swipe system only works at three locations on campus — Roth Café, West Side Dining and Union Commons, which will eventually be replaced by East Side Dining.

After SBU’s contract with its previous food provider expired last year, resulting in its current contract with Sodexo, some vendors across campus have also been replaced. Many shops such as Red Mango at Roth Café and the Taqueria and Far East stations in Union Commons have been replaced with other vendors, such as Saladworks and Cucina Italiana.

Many students are refusing to suffer silently, leaving negative comments and posts on social media about the new system.

University cafeterias aren’t typically expected to have phenomenal food, but they’re supposed to serve something more than food that is borderline edible,” Hamza Syed, a junior computer science major, wrote on SBU Dining’s Facebook page.

He isn’t the only one. Students across campus have been vocal about the portion sizes and lack of variety at the dine-in locations.

“The amount of options has significantly decreased, the portions have gotten even smaller,” said Nick Alicata, a sophomore economics major. “And the quality is a step above dog food at Roth and the Union.”

Alicata also pointed out various other issues with the meal swipe system, primarily involving the dine-in aspect of the facilities. Students are not able to view the options at dine-in facilities without paying first and they are forced to eat whatever is available.

For those who are not on the unlimited plan, door prices are also expensive and range from $6.75 to as much as $9.95 depending on when the meal is being eaten. Breakfast offers the cheapest dine-in price, while dinner is the most expensive. In addition, the lack of take-out options is especially difficult for students with busy schedules. Mele said that he “expected little and got less than expected.” 

Some complaints go beyond the culinary sphere.

“Taking away the budgeting aspect discourages students from being financially responsible,” Erynn McLeod, a senior music major, wrote on the SBU Eats Facebook page.

Students are also required to relinquish their ID cards before entering bathrooms at certain locations in order to prevent other students from entering the dining area without paying.

“Having to turn in your ID before using the restroom is the equivalent of a bathroom pass and is belittling for young adults,” McLeod continued.

Although the new system has been met with criticism, some options are more popular than others. But many students admit that they simply go to the facility that is closest to them out of convenience.

Sodexo Global Senior Vice President of the Marketing Universities Segment, Bill Lacey, sent out an email on Sept. 1 assuring students that the dining issues are being addressed.

“We are committed to enhancing your new Dine-In experience every day,” Lacey wrote in the email.

Students have even started a petition to change the system, and a sit-in is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sept. 7 at West Side Dining. Students can also contact the Student Voice for Campus Dining with any concerns, but Mele said this will take time.

First, we have to see what is causing the problems,” he said, otherwise it would be an issue of saying ‘we want this better.’ ”

Correction: Sept. 3, 2016

A previous version of this story erroneously reported the name of the committee that collects student feedback on Campus Dining. It is called Student Voice on Campus Dining, not Student Voice for Campus Dining.

  • Michael Hale

    GOD 22 years and people are still complaining about the food service. I went to sbu in 94 then worked for aramark and chartwells from 95-2002 in roth, sac, dental school, galleria cafe, humanities, etc. Places that don’t even exist anymore. Last time the school had a “meal swipe/declining balance” system roth, west side dining(nee kelly cafe) were open for apx 2.5 each for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Kelly and H closed after dinner. Roth wasn’t even all you can eat and had ‘meal equivalency” so if you lived in roth/tabler and went to roth more often you got half the value for your meal plan as all you can eat kelly and H. Roth was open til midnight but was declining balance only after dinner hour and deli was open til 11. Now you have 2 locations for meal swipes open til 1am and another til 3am. Seems like a huge improvement.
    Or how bout anyone remember the last two years Aramark was on campus and FSA foisted the whole retail/advantage price scheme on the campus community?