Staff Editorial: J Street dining options don’t measure up

A week into the fall semester a new dining plan requirement is the topic of discussion among GW’s underclassman. Most students are less than pleased with being told where to spend their Colonial Cash. Students have spoken out at townhall meetings, created Web sites and joined Facebook groups about the mandated dining options not meeting their standards.

An early August e-mail sent to sophomores from Campus Support Services and Dining Services claimed that the changes were in response to student feedback about “the need for better food value, more healthy options, improving the overall quality and variety of food offerings, enhancing customer service and establishing hours of operation that better meet students’ needs.”

University officials cited the required spending for freshmen and sophomores as the panacea for these improvements. All of these are worthy and important goals, yet unfortunately thus far, few of these promises have been kept. If officials demand GW students to spend a fair portion of their money at Sodexho-run eateries, it is important for them to keep their end of the bargain.

When members of The Hatchet’s editorial board went to J Street on Sunday afternoon, all the food venues were closed and the dining area was essentially abandoned except for people who had brought in their own lunch, including delivery pizza. We observed people walk into J Street, take one look around at the closed venues and leave to spend their money elsewhere. Indeed, J Street is entirely closed on the weekends – a trade-off for later hours during the week, explained Francis Murray, the Student Association director of dining and student services.

Weekends provide the opportunity for students to actually sit down with books or friends at the casual dining options Sodxeho offers in Foggy Bottom and the Mount Vernon Campus. However, students have become so accustomed to inconvenient, constantly changing times of operation that they don’t even attempt to visit these establishments.

While the extended hours Monday through Friday are appreciated and an upgrade from last year, it does little to counterbalance the other shortcomings. While many students wouldn’t mind grabbing a sandwich from J Street in the middle of the day, it is so often inundated with other community members that the combination of wait time and slow service discourages many potential student customers.

On the occasion that they do find an eatery open, they need to be able to find something adequate to purchase. While some can live on a diet of Wendy’s and Chik-fil-A, many GW students have dietary restrictions that can complicate their ability to spend up to $700 per semester at Sodexho locations. Vegans, vegetarians and people with religious constrictions can find themselves in a bind when it comes to finding satisfactory food choices. Although there are limited options for those groups, GW and Sodexho officials must offer a selection that reflects the required spending.

Amid a host of areas of concern, we must applaud the Student Association for gathering student opinions and their efforts to improve the dining situation. This page commends the SA in continuing their efforts after accomplishing many of their goals for this term, but this situation calls for action as well as listening.

Leaders of the SA and GW officials should realize by now the extreme unpopularity of this required spending plan and do all in their power to make sure the essential service of campus dining is up to par. However, we will see little change if GW students only talk about the issue to each other. Concerned students should take the lead by lodging formal complaints with the SA and Dining Services and letting their frustration be known to the decision makers.

This year’s policy concerning dining may already be set in stone, but officials should use these examples of student dissatisfaction as part of their bargaining for next year. While dining is a business-based venture, both Sodexho and GW must appease students wants and needs for this basic service.

While no dining option will ever truly satisfy an entire student population, it should not be the case that such a percentage of the undergraduate body is unhappy. All parties involved must try harder to work to reach a dining plan that GW can maintain for more than a single year.

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