Administration reflects on the future of dining

Students report some dissatisfaction; formal RL&D assessment to occur in a year

Now that the new dining plan has been in place for almost four semesters, how could it improve? Although the House Dining Program is unlikely to change in the short term, the system will be evaluated after next year in an assessment driven by student opinion and data that Residential Life & Dining can gather about usage of the plan, feedback about the quality of food, and other metrics, says Henry J. Humphreys, senior associate dean of Residential Life and Dining (RL&D).

In 2014, RL&D will conduct an assessment of dining to better accommodate the changing needs of the students who use the house dining plan, said Humphreys. “We know that there have to be some adjustments,” Humphreys said. “We want to make sure that we use data to determine what those changes will be. We will definitely also have students in on those conversations.”

Regardless of the promise of an assessment in the future, it is evident that some students already think that the quality of food in particular could use major improvements. Over half of the respondents to The Tech’s survey about the current state of the house dining plan rated that they “Strongly disagreed” or “Disagreed” with the statement “I am satisfied with the quality of food served in the dining halls.” Humphreys said he had not had this sentiment brought to his attention either by students or other Division of Student Life (DSL) staff.

“We have not heard that sentiment about overall satisfaction,” Humphreys said. “But, this is why we need to bring in our assessment person to develop an instrument that gives us a good idea of what’s really going on.”

Humphreys also mentioned the current house dining system does not provide capacity for rollover meals and other “bells and whistles” because that would increase the cost of the plan, and DSL is trying to keep the costs lower.

“The idea is to always provide quality food service to our students while also being conscious of cost because our students are conscious of cost,” Humphreys said.

Nevertheless, 431 out of 559 (or about 77 percent) respondents to The Tech’s survey on the dining plan said that they thought they were getting less than their money’s worth for each meal that they ate at the dining hall.

Most of the problems that RL&D deals with are very small issues, such as availability of food options at certain communities as opposed to others or the cleanliness of the dining hall spaces. “We’re very quick on Bon Appétit to address those issues right away,” Humphreys said.

Although dining is unlikely to see any drastic changes over the next year, RL&D’s short term goal is to improve how dining runs in its current state. Whether the students are satisfied with this however, is another story.