Higher Dining Prices Shouldn’t Lead to Lower Quality Food

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Published October 2, 2019
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The Montclarion
Alexis Kitchmire | The Montclarion

Food on a college campus carries with it a range of negative connotations. Most college food lacks nutrition, a variety of options and fair monetary cost.

It is understandable to have low expectations about on-campus dining, but it is not understandable that dining services continue to decline as the cost for it continues to rise.

Before the fall semester began, the Montclair State University Board of Trustees voted to approve an administrative pay raise of 3.5%. President Susan Cole will now make over $600,000 this school year, and not even a beetle in a someone’s broccoli could warrant an improvement at Sam’s Place.

Last year, an insect was found in someone’s meal at Sam’s Place, and the university responded with a campuswide email that provided zero information on the incident, and zero information on how the food service process will be improved.

Dining services called the mishap, “naturally part of the farm to table process.” They claimed to uphold high standards of food service and then continued to serve rotten fruits and vegetables.

The other options for food on campus include Freeman Dining Hall, which is a 15-minute walk out of the way of anyone who is not a music or art major.

Therefore, the vast majority of students are stuck with Sam’s Place unless they want to spend their flex and Red Hawk Dollars at Chili’s in Blanton Hall or at Grill Nation, Panda Express, the Rathskeller and California Tortilla in the Student Center, all of which continue to raise their prices in order to operate on campus and pay their staff.

The food at Chili’s is not only increasing in price but does not meet the same standard as if one were to dine at a regular Chili’s restaurant. It is more money for less quality.

There is also the Red Hawk Diner, all of which have seen a significant increase in price since last spring.

For students who cannot afford options other than a basic meal plan, their options are cut even slimmer. After 9 p.m., the only places to get a meal are the Red Hawk Diner, Rathskeller, Dunkin Donuts and Au Bon Pain.

This is excluding students who may have dietary restrictions and allergies, especially those who follow gluten-free diets, whose only option all day on the entire campus is to eat in the back corner of Sam’s Place.

The hour restrictions hold these students hostage as to what and when they can eat if they cannot make their own food.

When most of the dining locations on campus are closed, students are left with the equally low quality, more expensive options. With a 2.2% increase to room and board costs according to the Board of Trustees annual tuition hearing, many students are left feeling hungry after an evening class or late night studying.

A last resort option for food late at night then resides with vending machines, which have raised all $1.50 items to $1.60. Not only is our best option for food past midnight a Kit-Kat bar or a bag of Doritos, we are forced to pay extra for that as well.

With all of these other options besides the traditional dining halls, many students are burning through their flex and Red Hawk Dollars within the first few weeks of the semester. Once their accounts are depleted, they are forced to rely on swipes or pay out-of-pocket.

We should not blame the dining service employees for the lack of quality. They are working long hours for low wages. It is understandable that the fact prices are increasing is not their fault and they are just trying to make a profit and pay their employees on a tight budget.

On the other hand, we should be questioning our university’s leadership. We should be questioning our administrators giving themselves pay raise after pay raise and bonus after bonus. However, if we were to do that, they would explain that it is a lack of funding from the state that results in poor and expensive dining services, dwindling infrastructure and expensive parking passes.

Therefore, we must not only deal with low-quality food that continues to get worse and worse, we must pay more and more year after year.

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