Letter to the Editor – Addressing Dining Issues

Hugh Bradford, George Murray & Sue Smith

We are writing in response to concerns expressed by the SGA concerning changes made to meal plan offerings, particularly as they relate to the Edge, and the communication of those changes to students. There were a number of changes made for the 2007-08 year that were introduced as a result of student input.Perhaps the best example of this is introduction of the first-year meal plan where access to the Coop is in the form of a block plan that can be used throughout the semester, coupled with flex dollars to avoid the need to use a full equivalency for small purchases. This addressed student concerns about weekly use-it-or-lose-it access, and about using ‘Gate cash to purchase items that they felt should be covered by the plan.Currently this plan is only available to first-year students, but at the suggestion of the SGA we are pleased to be able to offer this plan to all students starting this spring semester.

The changes at the Edge were prompted by relatively low student usage of the Edge in the previous year and the desire to offer something new to meal plan participants – the “Cutting Edge Bistro.”While the response to the new offerings have been generally very positive, we acknowledge that these changes were not well communicated to students ahead of time, and that this understandably caused some surprise and resentment from those students who made room selections before the announcement of the new arrangements.

Having received this input from the SGA, Dean Johnson has asked us to take a look at the communications issue as it relates to dining, both in terms of listening to student suggestions and concerns, and the way in which changes are announced to students.

We are pleased to report that we have had very useful interactions with the SGA leadership in two ways. Firstly they have presented us with a list of current student concerns, and we hope to make substantial progress in addressing many of the issues — some of them almost immediately. Secondly, and more importantly, we feel that a valuable two-way communication channel has been opened up that will allow future meal plan changes to benefit from structured student input.We are particularly appreciative of the positive approach taken by the SGA in suggesting possible solutions, and not just re-iterating the problems.

Once again, we acknowledge the legitimate concerns associated with poor communication by the university, but we feel are now much better positioned to have the effective communications necessary to allow us to work constructively with the SGA on student dining issues.

Hugh Bradford – Associate Vice President for Budget and Financial AidGeorge Murray – Director of Dining ServicesSue Smith – Assocate Dean of the College