Officials gather feedback about student dining habits, housing rate satisfaction in survey

Media Credit: Sophia Young | Photographer

Officials hope a 113-question survey will provide a comprehensive view of what students think about housing and dining on campus.

Officials are gathering feedback about students’ housing and dining experiences through a comprehensive survey.

The survey, which opened Sept. 26 and closes next week, asks 113 questions about how satisfied students are with their living and dining options, how much students pay for housing and where they most often eat on campus. Officials and student leaders said the survey results will guide upcoming housing and dining changes, like possibly adding a dining hall to the Foggy Bottom Campus and increasing programming in residence halls.

Cissy Petty, the vice president of student affairs and dean of students, said the survey is part of a “comprehensive assessment” officials are taking of students’ housing and dining options.

“We want to gather general student feedback on their dining experiences in an effort to assess how we can enhance this element of the student experience,” Petty said in an email. “Dining is an important aspect to a student’s life, in terms of health, well-being and feeling connected to others.”

Petty said survey consultants helped officials develop the format of the survey, which takes about 20 minutes to complete.

“I want to know what elements of the dining program meet students’ expectations, understand the overall level of satisfaction and identify how we can work to achieve some of our overarching goals around student community through changes to the program,” Petty said.

Student Association President SJ Matthews said she worked with dining and housing officials to formulate questions for the survey. She said students’ biggest problems with housing are facilities issues like broken faucets and mold.

Several students were relocated from Thurston, Guthridge, Mitchell and Clark halls last fall because of water damage. Officials hired a maintenance firm in 2017 to address a mold outbreak in Thurston Hall. A mold outbreak in Mitchell Hall over the summer forced summer residents to move out early.

“Students are a little frustrated with the status of housing on campus,” Matthews said. “It’s expensive, you don’t always get what you expect when you move in.”

Matthews said she and officials are discussing the possibility of adding more dining plan options, like a separate plan for commuters, and constructing a dining hall on the Foggy Bottom Campus. The J Street dining hall, Foggy Bottom’s only dining hall, shuttered its doors in 2016 when officials switched to the GWorld plan.

“I love the idea of having a dining hall,” Matthews said. “A dining hall would be a fantastic addition to the Foggy Bottom Campus, and I think it would be a great spot to build community.”

Food insecurity has been a widespread student concern since the J Street dining hall closed in 2016. Students launched a task force with officials last April to strategize methods to reduce food insecurity on campus, recommending in April that officials expand dining options and add a dining hall on the Foggy Bottom Campus.

Matthews said a dining hall will likely be housed in Thurston Hall once it reopens in the fall of 2022.

“It’s really exciting with Thurston going offline at the end of this year and the huge renovations that are going to happen there,” she said. “We are really moving into a new era of housing and dining at GW because Thurston will also most likely have a dining hall.”

Matthews said she will meet with officials in November to formulate a plan that incorporates the survey’s responses into upcoming dining changes.

“As long as we get student feedback, we’re going to take it and run with it, and then formulate a concrete plan of ‘where do we go from here,’” she said. “Hopefully we’ll see some changes soon.”

Trinity Diaz, the president of the Residence Hall Association, said students have complained that living on campus is expensive. A Hatchet analysis found that the University charges students thousands of dollars more to live on campus than it costs to live in nearby apartment complexes, like the Residences on the Avenue and Varsity on K.

But Diaz said she has heard positive feedback from students about housing upgrades congruent with the University’s plan to funnel $10 million into campus enhancements, like new flooring and paint in residence halls like Potomac House and Mitchell Hall.

She said the RHA will use the results of the dining portion of the survey to plan cooking programs for students. The RHA hosted cooking classes for students in Thurston Hall last year, a program Diaz said will expand to all freshman residence halls.

“It’ll further drive home how important it is to our hall councils to do programming, especially because of some of the housing questions we’re asking – ‘Do you want more programming in the halls?’” Diaz said.

Victoria Mehren contributed reporting.

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