Complaints about Dining Services need to be voiced
On Tuesday, Dining Services and representatives from Chartwells made an appearance at the Student Senate meeting to present information about their services and to hear the complaints of the public. The event, however, was not well advertised, so no one from the general public showed up to voice their opinions. This is not, however, because everyone is satisfied with the quality of food and services.
If you ask just about anyone who has a meal plan or has had one in the past, most people have a laundry list of complaints that they will be very willing to share. Grievances include sub-quality food, issues with lack of training/overwork among food service student employees, lack of meal diversity, insufficient food allergy accommodations and high prices for transfer meals. Chartwells has been around since the fall semester of 2015, and these complaints have been relatively constant the whole time.
The biggest problem lies with the meal plans, which students living in the dorms (except for South Forks) are required to have unless they can prove with a doctor’s note that the food makes them dangerously ill. Not all students want to have a meal plan, however, either because they find it cheaper to cook their own food or because they dislike the options offered by Chartwells.
This leads to problems where students do not fully use their meals over the course of the week and end up missing out on food that they’re entitled to. They might also have leftover dining dollars at the end of the semester, which they either frantically use up in the C-Store or which ends up going to the university rather than being reimbursed.
We would like to see more flexibility given to students regarding their meal plans. There should be more options for students to choose from, so that they can best pick a meal plan that fits their eating style.
Students that want to be able to cook for themselves should also be allowed to completely opt out of the system, since that not only encourages learning to cook but also reduces food waste. Furthermore, the university should be actively encouraging students to cook for themselves by offering cooking classes. Simply providing a place to easily eat fast food does not prepare students for life after college.
All these changes and more need to be made, but unless students make their case known to Dining Services, there is no way for Chartwells to know that the job they’re doing is inadequate. To begin with, students should take full advantage of any surveys, focus groups or text-a-complaint options that Dining Services advertises.
If you want to go a step further, keep an eye on Student Senate agendas for open forums like the one last Tuesday, and make a point to attend. Dining Services also holds regular meetings during the school year, called Dining Service Advisory Committee (DSAC) meetings. They don’t have a calendar listing dates and times, but they do provide an email address that you can request information from: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call them at 715-425-4403.
Students who are dissatisfied with the food they are being forced to buy should make a point to get their voice heard.