Being a Montclair State University resident has its ups and downs. Not having to wake up two hours earlier to beat the traffic or deal with parking is a major plus. Knowing the best lounges on campus and getting to watch the city lights at night from the terrace on top of the Center for Environmental and Life Sciences building are small treasures that residents become familiar with. However, the dining at Montclair State can really put a damper on a student’s living experience. Between the limited options and conflicting hours, there is never a shortage of problems to run into.
Everyone is aware that there is a disappointing amount of choices for vegans and gluten-free students. Despite the small gluten-free stations in Sam’s Place and Freeman Dining Hall, students with these diets still struggle to find meal options throughout the day and vegans have voiced their concerns over their lack of choices. Besides Chop’d in the Student Center, there are no specific places where most of the menu is vegan. This is a problem that both residents and commuters run into, but commuters usually have the option to bring leftovers from home or buy food off campus.
Residents get the shorter end of the stick when it comes to Montclair State’s dining services because of the unaccommodating hours of most dining options on campus. Opening the “What’s Open Now” option of the NEST app at 10 p.m. on a Saturday night is a dangerous game. Dining halls and the Blanton Plaza are closed, which leaves students with a swipe meal plan no options. Though we can use Flex dollars and head over to the Red Hawk Diner or hit up Bistro 62, there is nowhere to use swipes at night on the weekends.
Students with swipes are able to use them at dining halls and for transactions that cost $6.80 or less at places that accept them. The problem with this meal plan is that not many places take swipes. The most popular dining option students with swipes usually frequent is the Student Center. Pretty much all dining options within the Student Center take swipes. However, they hold limited hours.
Food places in the Student Center like Panda Express, California Tortilla and Grill Nation close relatively early during the week, and even earlier on Fridays. On the weekends, these places aren’t open.
Weekends at Montclair State for residents consist of desperately trying to get off campus to get food at places that take Red Hawk dollars or sitting in our rooms eating ramen noodles for lunch and dinner. Residents cannot use swipes to eat breakfast at dining halls until after 9:30 a.m. If you are an early riser, I hope you saved some Flex dollars to get a bagel at Dunkin’ Donuts or pancakes at the diner.
Montclair State is probably tired of hearing complaints relating to dining. However, they are usually responsive when it comes to appealing to everyone’s needs. Adding vegan and gluten-free options on campus is a new phenomenon that came about due to students voicing their opinions. While the majority of Montclair State students are commuters, the university must consider the needs of the 5,200 students who dorm. I guarantee those students would agree that dining hours need to be extended and more places need to accept swipes. Broke college students would be thankful to not have to constantly spend money on Tapingo delivery.