SGA Conducts Student Dining Survey

By James Finn

The SGA sent students a survey via email on Wednesday, Sept. 20, seeking opinions about the changes to the dining system implemented at the start of this semester. SGA senators Maryam Mahboob ’18 and Hannah Pustejovsky ’18 sent students the survey in anticipation of a meeting between members of the SGA and food service director Dan Detora on Friday, Sept. 22.

According to the Mahboob and Pustejovsky’s email, the goal of the meeting was to discuss student responses to the recent changes and work to improve the system. Mahboob, Pustejovsky and other SGA members at the meeting wished to be informed about student opinions prior to the meeting.

The survey asked students which dining halls they attend most frequently, whether they engage in activities besides eating (such as socializing and studying) in the dining halls, and whether they have concerns or suggestions for improving the new swipe system. Responses were recorded in short-answer format. In response to the survey, students generally suggested that the swipe system either be made faster or eliminated altogether.

Short-answer responses to the survey generally included complaints revolving around the time students have to wait in line as their ID cards scan upon entering the dining halls. Many students wrote that they are bothered by the lines created as each person entering the dining hall has to pause to scan their card.

“Dining is something that I have been concerned about since last year when Dan Detora came in to the Senate to discuss his new ideas on a swipe system,” Pustejovsky said.  “I have been deeply concerned with the possible ramifications these changes will have on campus life and how students have been shut out of the conversation.”

Some students objected to the logistical changes that came with the new plans, such as in Proctor, where students now have to enter and leave the dining hall through two separate sets of doors.

“I do think that it’s annoying that you have to walk all the way around by the plate clearing station in Proctor to get out if you want to sit outside or in [Proctor Lounge],” Jack Decker ’20.5 said. “I hope the system proves that it’s not necessary to institute a swipe plan and we can go back to the way things were last year.”

In an email sent to the student body on Thursday, Sept. 21, Dan Detora said that the dining team is working to make the swipe system faster.

“We are currently working on trying to speed up the swipe time,” Detora said in the email. “We are averaging 1.4 seconds per transaction, but would like to cut that in half.” Detora also noted that wait times are inevitable during busy meal hours, with or without a swipe system in place.

“Keep in mind, on Tuesday and Thursdays there is a common lunch hour with the current class schedule,” he said. “So when 800 students show up in the dining hall you will be waiting in line for food no matter how quickly you swipe.”

Mahboob pointed out that the new swipe system will bring positives in terms of reducing food waste, an issue she and Pustejovsky discussed with Detora during their Sept. 22 meeting.

On the plus side, the changes in Dining will reduce food wastage, and result in a financial surplus for Dining to spend elsewhere,” Mahboob said.

While many student responses to the survey generally included complaints, some students are satisfied with the new system.

“I’m not at all bothered by the changes,” Rose Adams ’18.5 said. “I read that the swipe system will lower food waste and allow the college to reassess the dining hall budget, which was apparently unreasonably high. It’s not too much to ask for students to swipe a card.”

Pustejovsky said that she will continue to communicate with Detora with regards to future changes in the dining system.

“I would like a conscious effort to be made to listen to the complaints and concerns of the students,” she said.  “Dining is one of the most central things on campus. It is super important that we agree with the way things are being changed.”