News | Residence dining in disarray

Students, staff upset by change in prices and policy

What happens when student suggestions for improving campus life get misinterpreted? In McGill residence cafeterias, students are now adjusting to a new dining system that some wish they hadn’t asked for in the first place.

For years, students in Royal Victoria College (RVC) and Upper Residences – Molson, McConnell, Gardner, and Douglas – had been curious as to why their cafeteria system only had limited hours of operation, no weekend food services, and a fixed, albeit large, portion of food at each meal – a system that generated a lot of waste.

Administrators are now saying that they’ve responded to years of student feedback by extending dining hours until 10 p.m., keeping the cafeterias open on weekends, and providing more flexible meal options. All residence students now have declining balances and are permitted to spend 85 per cent of their funds at their home residence, and the remaining 15 per cent at campus food spots. This split ensures that McGill Food and Dining can cover their contractors’ fees at each location.

Students are still dissatisfied, however, due to hikes in food prices. A standard dinner costs around $13, and students are charged extra for healthy items like salads – which used to be free and unlimited – and fruit. Instead of paying extra – like $1.05 for an apple – some students are eating less and complaining that food services are overpriced and monopolistic.

The meal plan is mandatory for all students in the Upper Residences, RVC, New Rez, and Carrefour, and each is serviced exclusively by McGill Food and Dining – a new centralized body comprised of the former Residence Dining and McGill Dining offices.

Concerned students have already prompted McGill Dining to tweak their price system. Yesterday morning, students arrived for breakfast to find that all meal prices had dropped by an average of $2 – a small victory.

Part of this development can be attributed to a petition started by Patrick Dibb, a resident at McConnell who quickly garnered the support of 120 of his peers.

“Various meal options were ridiculously overpriced,” he said. “They were wringing us dry on every single little thing.”

Dibb, however, was not able to get his petition accepted by anyone in the administration, and admits that the petition’s role will be negated by the election of Food Reps from each residence.

There are still several kinks to work out in the new dining system. Floor fellows who were familiar with the old system are now complaining that the sense of community around the dinner table has disappeared with the extended meal times.

In addition, students from RVC are finding it difficult to manage without their cafeteria at Sherbrooke and University – an ideal lunch spot for students during the day – which is closed for major renovations and won’t be open until January 2010.

The new Carrefour residence only has breakfast and snack service, and their residents must travel to New Residence Hall to eat most meals.

As with most shocks to a system, it appears that the adjustment of students and staff to the new system has been slow. With luck, students’ feedback will be duly noted by the administration throughout the year, and McGill Food and Dining Services will eventually establish a viable and pragmatic arrangement.

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