A majority of Thurston Hall residents signed a petition last month requesting changes in meal plan policies at Thurston Dining Hall.
Similar petitions have been created this year, but this is the first time organizers were able to gather more than 600 signatures from Thurston residents, according to Thurston Hall Council President Aaron Chacker. The petition was sent to GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg and other administrators.
“The petition addresses one of the biggest issues facing freshmen right now,” Chacker said.
In a memo sent along with the petition, the hall council asked for meal times to be extended past 7:30 p.m., to have dinners served on Friday nights, free refills on drinks and the ability to use more than one meal in a meal period.
Extended meal hours and Friday night dinners are the most important issues on the petition, Chacker said. Students are finding they have four or five meals left at the end of the week because their schedules do not allow them to eat during meal periods, he said.
“I don’t think (the petition) is unreasonable,” said Thurston resident Suzanne McCann.
But these are not changes that can be easily implemented, according to Gayle Adler, director of the Student Association’s Dining Services Commission.
“Some things obviously can’t be changed,” Adler said.
Many parents are opposed to allowing students to use more than one meal in a meal period because they are worried their children will use all their meals before the week is over, she said.
Extending hours is “not financially feasible for the University,” Adler said, because the unionized staff already works eight-hour shifts. She added that free refills are not necessary because the cups are much bigger than they were a few years ago.
Chacker said Adler’s concern about extending the dining hall workers’ hours is legitimate.
“I’m primarily concerned with getting the meals to the students,” he said.
The Dining Services Commission discussed ways to address the request for meals on Friday nights at a recent meeting, Adler said.
“It’s definitely important to get Friday night meals on that end of campus,” she said.
But leaving Thurston Dining Hall open Friday nights would produce too much overhead because not enough students would use the facility, according to Adler.
Instead, the commission is recommending a trial period to offer meals at Cortille Cafe in Mitchell Hall Friday nights. If the trial period is approved, it will begin after spring break.
Students eating at Thurston Dining Hall have mixed feelings about the petition, but agree the meal plan is flawed.
“I just think that changes need to be made,” Thurston resident Meredith Kiernan said.
Many agreed the meal hours are too limited and said they would eat at Thurston on Friday nights if meals were offered. But students also doubted the effectiveness of the petition.
“(When I signed the petition) I thought they could actually do something about it, but it doesn’t seem like anything’s really going to come of it,” said Thurston resident Kate Schackern.
Thurston resident Alison Consoletti noted similar petitions have been tried in the past, but no changes have been made.
Chacker said he thinks this time the petition should hold more influence, because of the number of students who signed.
“With almost 600 voicing their discourse about the meal plan in the form of a signature, we are telling the administration that this is not a unique issue by person but, in fact, a universal issue throughout theresidence hall,” Chacker said.