At Wednesday’s Dining Services Committee meeting, students questioned Sodexho representatives about broken dishwashers, poor food selection and issues with the dining services staff.
The dishwashers in Eickhoff Dining Hall had broken before the semester break. Students, many of whom had assumed the machines would be fixed by the start of the Spring semester, expressed frustration that this was not the case.
Leo Inglima, Student Government Association (SGA) dining services liaison, said that students were upset about the replacement of silverware with plastic, paper and Styrofoam.
Matt Hower, director of resident dining, said that the repairs made on the machines during the semester break had “triggered some more items to go bad.”
John Higgins, general manager, also admitted that “Fall was a nightmare for (Sodexho),” indicating the frequent problems the company had with the dishwashers.
When asked how much money had been put into fixing the machines, Higgins said that since September 2005, the company had spent about $8,000 on repairs, $6,000 of which had been spent during the semester break.
Despite the problems, students and Sodexho representatives agreed that there had been a “drastic difference” in the cleanliness of silverware on the days it had been available this semester.
Many students had written to complain about food selection. Students wanted Eickhoff Dining Hall to include chicken tenders, more vegetarian options and an extended breakfast period.
Sodexho representatives explained that chicken tenders are simply too expensive to be included in Eickhoff as an “all-you-can-eat” food item. They also said that every food station in Eickhoff should include at least one vegetarian option.
In response to the request to move the end of breakfast from 11 a.m. to noon, Higgins dismissed the idea, saying “there has to be a cutoff.”
Besides the actual food itself, students also brought up the issue of long waits in Eickhoff.
Higgins explained that Sodexho does its best to accommodate the volume of students Eickhoff gets, which amounts to about 9,000 meals a day, while still trying to serve the food as fresh as possible. Some foods, he said, can not be prepared ahead of time.
Hower added that the first few weeks of the semester are always busier than the rest of the semester. He said that the volume of students eating on campus, particularly on the weekends, “should drop off.”
Student complaints also included concerns about the staff in the dining halls.
In particular, students felt uncomfortable about having staff members come by to clean tables while they are still eating.
Sodexho representatives said that while they understand this concern, they have to find a way to balance cleaning and serving food, since they are open continuously until 8 p.m.
Also discussed at the meeting was the harsh lighting in Eickhoff, the interaction of Sodexho managers with students eating in Eickhoff and raising the $4.75 allowed by the meal equivalency plan to $5.00.
In addition, plans for opening a caf? were briefly mentioned, though no specific details about the project were discussed.
In the coming months, Inglima and Hower will visit other colleges to compare them with the dining services program at the College. They plan to look at schools using Sodexho as well as those using other companies.
Sodexho also discussed some of its contests and programs.
The Lion’s Apprentice was correlated by Sodexho and the School of Business at the College. It will mimic the television reality show “The Apprentice.” Six teams of four students each will compete against each other to create a theme for the dining hall.
Battle of the Brains will challenge students and staff to create a “brain food.” The contest is still being coordinated. As of the meeting, Sodexho had not received any e-mails from students willing to participate yet and suspect that this may be because most students may not know about the competition.
Finally, Sodexho will honor Black History Month this February with a themed meal. They hope to work with interested students and the Black Student Union (BSU) to organize the event.
Sodexho will continue to hold committee meetings throughout the semester that are open to all students. Complaints can be e-mailed to Sodexho ahead of time via their Web site, tcnjdining.com.