J Street task force formed

Students who are unsatisfied with GW’s dining options have a new way to voice their concerns.

University President Steven Knapp formed a commission this month to more effectively address student concerns regarding dining options at J Street. The commission, which met for the first time Monday, includes members from the general student body, the Student Association, the University president’s office, GW Parents’ Association, along with representatives from Sodexho, GW’s dining service provider.

“This group will provide students a forum to provide input and have it meaningfully incorporated into the services and food choices at J Street,” said Ellen Wexler, the student liaison for the University president. Wexler will serve as the committee’s intermediary between students, Sodexho and Knapp.

The commission will convene once or twice a month to discuss student concerns and will be open to any GW community member.

“If students have concerns, they should come in and bring them up,” said sophomore Francis Murray, the SA’s director of dining and retail services.

This year the SA has already tackled a variety of issues with Sodexho, including revamping the freezer so it can contain more meats, installing a vegan bar, providing gluten-free food items, fair-trade coffee and biodegradable napkins.

All of these changes were the result of student input, Murray said.

“So far, I could not be happier with Sodexho’s responsiveness,” he said.

Apart from food concerns, the commission also plans to address more pressing long-term issues confronting current J Street policy, including mandatory spending and weekend hours, said SA Executive Vice President Brand Kroeger, a commission member.

“It is my hope that mandatory spending will be dropped,” said Kroeger, a junior.

Other students expressed skepticism that such reforms could ever actually take place.

Sophomore Josh Sacks, a critic of J Street mandatory spending, has led his own fight against Sodexho by creating Fightjstreet.com, a Web site dedicated to changing student spending requirements at J Street eateries.

“We brought up the recommendation of changing mandatory spending and they tabled it immediately,” Sacks said in reference to the commission’s first session this past Monday.

Some students are still looking for more healthy options in a venue that houses Wendy’s and Chick-fil-A.

“It’s a lot of really unhealthy stuff,” freshman Alana O’Grady said.

Despite these complaints, figures show that J Street is gaining customers.

“In general, things are going very positively. The level of students in J Street continues to rise,” said Lou Katz, executive vice president and treasurer of the University.

“People not on required- dollar spending are there more too,” Katz said.

Many students are awaiting further decisions made by the commission before they express approval.

“I think it’s a novel idea,” Sacks said. “If they take our recommendations, it has a lot of potential.”

SA President Nicole Capp said the SA will continue to take student input on dining and will work to advocate on behalf of students.

“The Student Association is not done on dining issues,” said Capp, a junior.

-Eric Roper contributed to this report.

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