“Overpriced” and “mundane.” These are just some of the words that come to mind when thinking of the dreadful dining establishment known as J Street.
For years, GW students have complained about the unsatisfactory conditions of this dining hall and their pleas were finally answered when the Student Association created the Dining Service Commission, a group whose goal was to work with the University and Sodexo to make student-favored policy changes. While the idea to create such a organization is a step in the right direction, the track record of the DSC and most of its efforts to expand the organization are underwhelming. Since then, the SA removed the DSC from its purview, and it now falls under the responsibility of the Marvin Center Governing Board. The DSC still has potential to make a difference on campus, but no real changes to J Street will occur if the DSC does not make necessary changes first.
Because J Street has so many issues, and change is so vital, the Dining Service Commission needs to work harder to get its name out on campus. Speaking to students about the DSC taught me one thing: many students don’t even know it exists. Sophomore Alexander Zafran is one such student, but when I asked whether he would like to be involved with DSC if he had known about it, he replied, “In a heartbeat.” He added, “What we eat affects us in every way – how we study, how we sleep and how we behave in general.”
Sophomore Benjamin Leighton, the sole member and chairperson of the group , admits “the biggest obstacles that [DSC] faces right now is simply getting the word out to the student body that we are looking for students who want to get involved in school and make a visible difference that affects every person in the GW community.” But it is imperative that the DSC works on promoting its organization, because if students knew about it, the organization’s meetings would attract droves of eager students hoping to get involved. It is not hard to sell students on the DSC’s mission, as almost everyone has a point of contention with J Street. Instead, the DSC needs to grow and actively look for members with ideas on how to fix the dining hall. Leighton can publicize and expand the DSC in many different ways: flyers, Facebook events or an e-mail listserv, just to name a few.
Additionally, even with funding, the only thing the last DSC administration accomplished was the installation of a microwave. One would think that on the heels of a failed administration, DSC’s new leadership would hit the ground running. But it has already been four weeks into the semester, and Leighton has yet to hold a meeting or recruit any members. All the while, student organizations like the Food Working Group strive to push an eco-friendly agenda, and have already convinced the University to use biodegradable plates and napkins made from recycled paper this year. A little initiative clearly goes a long way, and if the DSC could foster the desire for change, maybe it can make similar changes to J Street.
It may be easy to point the finger at Sodexo and blame it for the J Street’s problems, but Sodexo is also the vendor for dining halls at universities such as George Mason, and students there have very few complaints. George Mason’s Dining Subcommittee, the equivalent of our DSC, reports happiness with the food service.
The problem with dining at GW is complex. Union and space issues complicate J Street but the DSC should find ways to work beyond these obstacles to improve dining.
Though I understand that it is difficult to recruit members to a committee of only one person, Leighton needs to do more to further the DSC’s reputation on campus, recruit other student members and work with the University and Sodexo to advocate for students. Put simply, the DSC needs to step up to the plate, literally and figuratively.
-The writer, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.
Readers can visit the Forum to comment on this column.