By Alyssa Sanford
Director of Dining Services Karen Roth, General Manager of Sodexo Patrice Mendes and Associate Provost for Liberal Learning and Curriculum Christopher “Kit” Murphy spoke before the Student Government (SG) general body on Wednesday, April 6, bookending a meeting that included a fervent debate over the possible passage of the Scientista Foundation at TCNJ.
To start off the meeting, Roth and Mendes answered questions about the upcoming closure and renovations to the Lions Den that will start on Monday, April 18, and wrap up by the beginning of the Fall 2016 semester.
Some of the changes to the Lions Den will include a variety of grab-and-go options, as well as a grill station, a pasta and pizza station, a “noodle concept” that will feature Asian-style cuisine and a sushi station, Roth said.
Tackling questions about the salad station, which general body members said is often more expensive than less healthier options and frequently fluctuating in price, Mendes confirmed that the pricing will be more clear in the food court’s signage but acknowledged that prices for items like salad, which depend on weight, will fluctuate.
“I want everyone to eat healthy,” Mendes said, before adding, “We’re trying to be economical.”
The “servery,” or food stations, in the Lions Den will be greatly expanded during renovations. According to Mendes, the salad station “will be almost triple the size we have now” and other stations will be similarly expanded.
In addition, the cash registers just beyond the food stations will be relocated so there are registers on both ends of the food court and in the middle.
“You won’t feel like you’re in a corral,” Mendes said, referring to the somewhat claustrophobic nature of the registers’ proximity to the food stations that create long lines and crowding inside the servery area.
Furthermore, the Fresh Pride Cafe will be relocated to the second level of the Brower Student Center, Roth said.
Roth and Mendes also fielded questions about Eickhoff Hall, beginning with Roth conducting a brief survey.
Roth would say a statement and asked the students to stand if they agreed with it. The first statement was, “Eickhoff’s weekend hours meet my needs.” Few general body members stood.
A second question about the availability of healthy foods in Eickhoff Hall prompted many students to stand up in agreement.
“We’ve come a long way,” Roth said. “We’ve got a long way to go, but we’ve come a long way.”
As a follow-up question, Roth asked, “Do we do a good job of promoting healthy products on campus?” In response, no general body members stood.
Mendes spoke about an upcoming initiative in Eickhoff Hall starting in a few weeks that will feature healthy tips at every station about how to eat the healthiest meal possible. Giant signs and banners will help students take advantage of the healthy options in Eickhoff Hall, which are often obscured by the overwhelming variety of food, Mendes said.
She later offered an example to a general body member, who spoke about the lack of broccoli in Eickhoff Hall, suggesting that students can get broccoli at the 91.3 Wokery, which is available every day. Mendes said they can ask Eickhoff workers to steam it for them and pick out an entrée at a different station while waiting for the broccoli to finish cooking.
“Or you could heat it up in a microwave and save time,” Roth chimed in.
As for the availability of fresh produce on campus, Mendes sympathized with students who want more variety in the fruits offered on campus, aside from apples, bananas, oranges and melon.
“We’re trying to be sustainable and local,” Mendes said, adding that the majority of the school year takes place during the fall and winter, making it difficult to secure fresh fruits like berries, for instance.
As for organic produce, “it doesn’t have pesticides, it doesn’t have anything to prolong its life,” which makes transportation difficult and shelf life shorter, according to Mendes.
“You are our customer. That’s the bottom line,” Roth said after fielding questions. “That’s the beauty of it all… Your feedback through the years has been incredibly important to us.”
After the presentation, Scientista Foundation at TCNJ appeared before the general body to gain formal SG recognition, which would allow the club to secure Student Finance Board (SFB) funding and give it the ability to reserve space for meetings.
Scientista Foundation at TCNJ, which was approved by the Governmental Affairs (GA) committee on Sunday, March 20, has been in existence for several months, following an interest session and one meeting. It is part of a slow-growing national nonprofit that is beginning to crop up on college campuses, representatives said.
According to the GA briefing, the club seeks to “empower pre-professional women to pursue careers in the sciences, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM).”
The club is already planning to volunteer at the Young Women’s Conference at Princeton University and to attend the Scientista Symposium in New York City, according to the same briefing. Representatives also intend to bring speakers within the STEMM field to the College to participate in discussion panels and networking events.
Fielding questions from general body members, representatives said that this club seeks to empower women in STEMM who may feel discouraged in a male-dominated field and to keep them engaged.
According to President Casey Dowling, GA found that the Scientista Foundation at TCNJ does not conflict with any other science clubs on campus.
After a lengthy debate, which resulted in 21 votes to approve, 22 voters to disapprove, and eight abstentions, Scientista Foundation at TCNJ was not formally approved by SG. However, since the club gained approval from GA, it can re-present to SG at its earliest convenience, Dowling said.
Javier Nicasio spoke about TCNJ Student Organization Advancement Retreat (SOAR), which will take place on Wednesday, April 13, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., featuring the theme “Meaningful Cosponsorship.”
TCNJ SOAR is effectively taking the place of Passport to Programming.
“Passport to Programming is no longer a thing,” Nicasio said, to applause, before emphasizing several times that “this is a pilot run meeting,” and will develop over the years.
“It’s something that we thought would be a better thing to have so that there could be more conversations across campus between student leaders,” Nicasio said.
Rather than discussions about issues pertaining to a particular school on campus, these conversations “might be about diversity or inclusiveness on campus,” Nicasio said.
Student organizations that cannot attend TCNJ SOAR in room 201 of Roscoe West Hall for an excused reason will attend a make-up meeting, but organizations that do not attend will be derecognized or placed on probation, which includes the inability to book spaces or advertise, Nicasio said.
“Our hope is for next year that this can become a more regular thing, but we want to see how the pilot (meeting) goes to then see what we can do moving forward,” Nicasio said.
Finally, Murphy presented the findings of the College’s liberal learning self-study, which began in October 2015 and was completed after a year and half and also of an external review conducted by two “nationally recognized” experts in the field of higher education in early December 2015.
The recommendations fell into two categories. The first is major recommendations, which will yield “the most potential for improvements to liberal learning” and require governance to enact changes. The other is minor recommendations, which are administrative in nature, Murphy said.
Some of the major recommendations included the “integration between liberal learning, the majors and co-curriculars,” Murphy said, before asking, “How many of you feel liberal learning gets in the way of your major?”
Most general body members indicated that this was the case.
Murphy cited evidence that 47 percent of College students agree or strongly agree that liberal learning courses are “essential,” while nearly 88 percent of faculty and staff members feel this way. The disparity is alarming to Murphy, who said that employers are looking for well-rounded college graduates who know about the world outside of their major.
Additionally, 49 percent of College students see liberal learning requirements as an obstacle to completing major courses, Murphy said.
Among the proposed solutions include involvement from class councils.
“Send us what you think students should be learning… Send input via SG representatives,” Murphy said. “If you think (liberal learning) was the stupidest thing, make sure your voice is heard. We’re going to be moving ahead with this unless we get a lot of pushback.”