Student survey says DH is unsatisfactory

by Jeff Kasanoff / Beacon Staff • March 1, 2012

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Students have complained that the Little Building dining hall does not satisfy the needs of students who live on campus.
Students have complained that the Little Building dining hall does not satisfy the needs of students who live on campus.

In a survey conducted by the Student Government Association last week student expressed dissatisfaction with the hours of operation and cleanliness of the Little Building dining hall as their primary concerns regarding food services.

Of the 300 students and two alumni that responded to the electronic survey concerning the level of satisfaction with Emerson’s four dining facilities, 85 percent said they were unsatisfied with the dining hall’s hours —  most stating they would prefer the dining hall close later. Fifty-eight percent of those surveyed claimed that the dining hall was “Unsanitary” or “Not Sanitary at All.” 

Caitlin Higgins, the vice president of the SGA, said the survey was spurred by recent student complaints regarding sanitation and dining options. The official survey report revealed that many unsatisfied students reported seeing rodents or “improper food-handling by employees” in the dining hall.

In the report, 144 students said they ran out of Board Bucks —  meal plan money that can be used at Emerson’s Cafe, the Paramount Cafe, the C-Store, and the 150 Cafe in the Max Mutchnick Campus Center — before the end of the semester. However, while 83 percent of students said they would want more Board Bucks if given the option, 70 percent said they would not be willing to pay more money to get them.

In the past, Business Services has outlined its decisions regarding dining in a presentation to the SGA. After receiving complaints via the student government last year, business services placed proper food labels at stations in the dining hall.

This year, SGA took it upon itself to bring another list of concerns to the table, said Nancy Kwan, communication studies senator.

Kwan said that business services has been more receptive to the organization’s concerns than it originally expected. 

“We can’t actually make the change ourselves,” she said. “They make the change.”

Andrew Mahoney, the director of business services, said he looks forward to reviewing the survey and continuing to work with SGA.

“We want to move forward and resolve these issues,” said Mahoney. 

Christina Leal, director of food services, also hopes to work with students to create a more well-received meal plan. 

“We are looking forward to working with the SGA to develop something,” said Leal. “I just haven’t been able to look in depth at [the survey].” 

Kwan said dining options are always a discussion within the association.   

“It’s something that always comes up every semester,” she said. “There have been small improvements, but we think that there should definitely be more.”

Seventy-four percent of students said that vegetarian options in the cafeteria were at least “important” to them, and 36 percent said that the dining hall was lacking in vegetarian options.

Freshman vegetarian Silvia Stantcheva said she is generally able to find an option that accommodates her diet. 

“For the most part, I find it satisfactory,” she said, noting that she usually eats the vegetarian special of the day. “But if I don’t like the special it gets kind of complicated.” 

Stantcheva said in this case she usually would end up eating corn or rice from the hot food line, which is not very filling. She added that she supplements dining hall meals with snacks purchased with Board Bucks. 

Of the respondents, 43 percent were freshmen and 90 percent live on campus, including Stantcheva.

“I ran out of Board Bucks for a good three weeks before the end of the semester,” she said. “And I had to start spending my own money.”