Fed up and still hungry

Tyler Hoffman, Executive Editor

A perusal through the Undergraduate Student Government’s Moderator web page reveals an interesting snapshot of what irks students on an average day at Case Western Reserve University. Think the Greenie system is too slow? That’s on there. Wish certain buildings had more seating? So does somebody else. Fed up with the dining options on campus? Now you’re joining a massive club.

On the first two pages of USG’s Moderator tool, students have voiced their concern about CWRU dining services more than any other topic. From a perceived lack of vegetarian options to the endless ways a meal swipe cannot be used, students’ voices are remarkably unified about this perpetual issue.

Unless a series of obstacles are navigated, all first and second year residential students are required to purchase one of several university meal plans. The minimum number of weekly swipes is 17 for first-year students and 10 for second-year students and upperclassmen. However, the list of limits on where and how many swipes can be used continues to grow.

Students have long been unable to use meal swipes at the Bon Appétit-operated L3 Grill on Fridays and Saturdays. More recently, students may only use swipes once before 1 p.m. and once after 5 p.m. The Jolly Scholar, which is a private business separate from the university, values a meal swipe at a cost substantially less than its actual meal-plan value. This results in students having to pay extra money in addition to using a meal swipe at the Jolly Scholar.

The location and operating hours of the campus’ food options is problematic as well. Time-pressed students seeking a midday meal on the Main Quad are often forced to wait in the 20-minute line for Grab-It, which can begin spilling out into the Quad by 11:30 a.m.

For those frequent occasions when late-night study sessions become less productive and food is needed to keep up with your textbook, options are sparse at best. Students living in the North Residential Village (NRV) can eat at Denny’s All-Nighter until 2:30 a.m. or 3 a.m. (ironic, I know), but students in the South Residential Village (SRV) have to get all their sustenance before 9 p.m., when Fribley Commons closes.

And for students holed up in Kelvin Smith Library, the Cramelot Café is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. The café has shortened hours on Friday and Sunday, but it is closed completely on Saturdays.

Then, there are the food options to take into consideration. Be it a lack of vegetarian dishes or an overabundance of seemingly cheap and unhealthy items, students are often unsatisfied with what an expensive meal swipe buys them.

The raising of this issue by undergraduates is not without merit, yet university administrators frequently dismiss it, claiming the food they ate at campus dining halls during special events was fantastic. But as most students would attest, Bon Appétit can change the quality of their offerings at will. Therefore, when prospective students are in town or special events are scheduled, undergraduates know to camp out in the dining halls like squirrels stockpiling nuts for winter.

If CWRU truly wants to become a “destination research university,” which is a doctrine being proposed for inclusion in the next strategic plan, our food must be good, timely, and well-located. Student organizations, such as the Residence Hall Administration (RHA), frequently meet with Bon Appétit to discuss concerns. (An effort to which Bon Appétit has been quite responsive.) But now it’s the administration’s turn.

The problems surrounding campus dining can only be solved through a cooperative effort consisting of university administrators, vendor management, and student leadership from both USG and RHA. Students will only become more vocal about their discontent, posing a marketing issue for the entire university unless engagement increases and solutions are employed. After all, students are fed up. It’s just not on good food.

Want to connect with the editor?
Follow him on Twitter @tylerehoffman or drop him a line at observer@case.edu.