At 5:30 p.m., the Eickhoff Dining Hall dinner rush begins. Students on the Carte Blanche system make a quick swipe and head for the kitchen.
First step: grab a tray. Carry it at your side, so as not to hit the flow of other students around you.
Next: get in line. There is a line for a sandwich, a line for pizza, a line for pasta, a line for the grill. Students buzz around each line, sometimes bumping into each other as they try to decide their meal.
Step Three: wait.
“I waited 10 minutes just for a burger,” Nikhil Thaker, sophomore business major, said. “This is definitely detrimental to the entire student body.”
Thaker is not happy with the Carte Blanche meal plan. As a sophomore, he experienced the Points Only meal plan last year, and longs for it. His grievances include the long lines and being limited to one dining hall.
Most students interviewed during dinnertime at Eickhoff Hall shared Thaker’s opinion. Some freshmen, who didn’t experience the Points Only meal plan of last year, were content with Carte Blanche. But sophomores and upperclassmen reminisced about an Eickhoff Hall that had a more relaxed feel and was conducive to studying.
“I can’t wait a half hour to get a quarter of a plate of pasta,” Marty Smith, sophomore physics major, said. “Since freshmen can’t eat at T-Dubbs (T/W), Sodexho wasn’t prepared for (the large crowds).”
Once the hunt for food is over, students have another task: finding a table. Seniors who pay the door rate to get in may end up sitting at a conference-like arrangement of tables with freshmen they don’t know. These new seating patterns, as well as additional tables in the wings of the dining hall, are an attempt to make more space for the greater volume of students.
“It’s too crowded,” Eve Ciacciarelli, sophomore biology major, said. “You have to come 45 minutes before (class) to get eggs for breakfast, and 15 of those minutes you will be waiting.”
Making sure to keep their elbows to themselves, students attempt to eat, but are sometimes hindered by silverware they claim is dirty.
“It’s not even clean,” Kobi Wilmot, junior biology major, said.
Students also complain about portion sizes and about not getting their money’s worth.
“I feel really limited only being able to come here,” Ed Thurston, junior finance major, said. He was put on the Carte Blanche meal plan after failing to select his own during housing sign-ups.
“I don’t know why they changed it, beyond profit,” Kyle Blohm, sophomore philosophy major, said. “They’re going out of their way to make it so you can’t get all you can eat,” he said in reference to portion sizes.
Lisa Bernice, sophomore English education major, said she feels Sodexho is making a lot of money off of her because she doesn’t eat three meals a day.
“The only reason they swipe your card is to get a head count,” she said. “If you don’t come in, they’re taking the money that was estimated for your breakfast, lunch and dinner anyway.”
Bernice said she would have liked to use some of those missed meals on her boyfriend, who visits regularly. Instead, she has to pay the door rate for him.
“He feels bad coming to eat here because he knows that money is taken away from my points when he does,” she said. Last year, she and her boyfriend would go to Brower Student Center Food Court and T/W Dining Hall more often.
“We don’t go there anymore because I don’t have enough money,” she said.
After dinner, students take their trays to several mobile racks. Food and silverware are left on the trays, so that workers from a temp agency can take them away to be cleaned.
The workers were hired temporarily to ease some of the burden on other employees.
“It’s kind of hard to keep things organized,” Felicia Kelly, Sodexho employee,said.
Another worker, who worked in Eickhoff Hall last year, said the job carries additional pressure this year.
“We don’t have enough time to prepare,” she said. “We’re always running to restock. They hired morepeople but we have to train them.”
Workers also have to stop students who try to take food with them on their way out. Janean Parrish, Sodexho employee, said she sees people trying to take out food every day and makes them get rid of it before leaving – unless they’re eating it as they walk out.
During lunch, Eickhoff is even more crowded, especially during a spike from 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. when nearly the entire campus has no classes. Dinner is a more steady flow, indicated by Sodexho counter records that show students consistently floating in at an average rate of 150 students per hour between 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.
The dining hall feeds approximately 4,500 students each weekday, as indicated by the Sodexho records. This is about 2,000 students more than last year, as approximately 2,500 students passed through Eickhoff in one day, according to Sodexho records from Spring 2003.
“It works in theory, not in practice,” Eric Maing, music and sophomore elementary education major, said. His friend, Adrian Ong, sophomore nursing major, agreed.
“Just like communism,” he said. “They should give us the points plan back.”
-Kristina Fiore, Managing Editor; Donna Kardos, Copy Editor; Tammy Tibbetts, Fact Checker