Approximately 30 students piled into the Student Government Association (SGA) meeting room last Wednesday, eager to confront Sodexho officials with their concerns regarding the new Carte Blanche meal plan. They hoped to discuss their questions even as they were asked to write them down on slips of paper.
As Pedro Khoury, executive president of SGA, announced time for only one more question after only three were fielded, a murmur of disbelieving gasps brushed through the audience.
“This is ridiculous,” Shainah Bowens, sophomore criminal justice major, said. “Why bother to come if he only answers four questions?”
As disgruntled students filed out of the room, John Higgins, general manager of Dining Services, and Stephen Hugg, marketing director of Dining Services, remained outside the meeting room for an hour addressing students’ concerns.
Students raised their most important concerns, including Eickhoff hours of operation, the dine-in policy, using their limited point reserves and lack of student input in the decision to launch the Carte Blanche program.
Since Eickhoff closes nightly at 8 p.m., students with evening classes said they felt forced to use their limited point supply at T/W, the only dining hall open after 8 p.m.
“I have class from five to nine, so I can’t eat dinner,” John Connelly, sophomore open options major, said. “I’m forced to use my points. I am still paying for meals I won’t be using (at Eickhoff Hall). I want to be able to use my points when I want to.”
Higgins responded by telling students that they had the option of choosing a plan with more points and could go to other dining halls using these points.
“This program does not restrict you from eating anywhere,” he said. “It allows you the flexibility to eat anywhere you want at any time.”
Students said that even with the largest Carte Blanche plan, which has 400 points, they would quickly run out of points before the end of the semester.
“I started with $250 and I’m down to $130 already,” Guilange Fabien, sophomore criminal justice major, said.
This is despite the fact that she conserves points by walking to Eickhoff Hall between classes at Bliss Hall even though the Brower Student Center Food Court is closer.
The all-you-care-to-eat dining facility requires students to dine in, unless they want to carry out “food in progress,” which is food they are currently eating.
Higgins said food plan costs would at least double if students were allowed to take food out of Eickhoff Hall. “How can I prevent you from feeding your roommate?” he asked.
He also refuted concerns regarding time constraints by saying the crowded lines in Eickhoff Hall are due to the new class schedule, rather than Carte Blanche.
“The retail program would create lines that were so much longer,” Higgins said, explaining that ringing up individual items takes more time than swiping for entry into Eickhoff Hall.
Despite complaints, Higgins defended Carte Blanche, saying surveys conducted during two two-day trial periods in Spring and Fall 2003 indicated that an “overwhelming majority of students wanted this.”
“Where are you getting your feedback?” Connelly asked. “I was never asked. No one I knew was asked.”
April Drumm, sophomore psychology major, said that when the surveys were conducted last year, Carte Blanche seemed great because students could eat all they wanted. However, they still had other dining hall options, as upperclassmen do this year.
Higgins said he missed another meeting to listen to these concerns after he had already fielded questions during the SGA meeting.
During the meeting, Hugg presented the basic facts about the seven meal plans Sodexho offers students at the College.
“They basically just rehashed what we already know,” Jenn Kaplan, sophomore math and secondary education major, said. “It was a waste of my time.”
Fabien agreed. “Why bother to come here?” she asked. “They wanted to document it and say ‘oh yea we had a meeting’ just to shut us up.”
-Kristina Fiore, Managing Editor; Donna Kardos, Copy Editor; Tammy Tibbetts, Fact Checker