Letter to the Editor

Luis Pena Ochoa

Over the weekend, the KentWired Twitter account received dozens of replies and direct messages in response to a tweet asking for students’ opinions on the recent changes to meal plans at Kent State.

Luis Peña Ochoa, a senior psychology major, sent us a direct message detailing his thoughts.

Edited for print, the message he sent:

Aramark is known in some places for coming in and fixing things up, but Kent State already had the top dining experience in the country, so they’re here trying to fix something that wasn’t already broken.

Dining Services decided to change to this new meal plan without consulting a significant body of students. Last semester, they had minimal marketing, poor explanation, zero choice or reason and inconveniently timed informational meetings, where students did express their concerns, but were ignored.

With meal swipes, we can eat at three places, two of which close no later than 9 p.m. This leaves students with only one nighttime option for food, an option that was already known for always being crowded.

They renovated Eastway to wow everyone and distract them, but in all dining halls now, we get smaller portions, the lines are longer, the food quality has declined, the machines are broken, most stations are out of food or closed and dining staffs cannot keep up with the amount of people there.

The tables are dirty, there’s trash and food everywhere, the washed dishes are often still dirty, it’s too loud, there’s barely enough seating for students and clean forks don’t seem to exist anymore. There’s also a considerable amount of food waste in the dining halls, probably a mix of “unlimited” and often unappetizing food.

Buy hey, at least it’s new and fancy.

We are forced to stay and eat in dining halls — unless we want to pay extra — even though so many students don’t have the schedules for that, and students who are not comfortable eating in the dining halls are in distress. We can’t use the markets, we can’t use the Hub and we can’t go to the two Starbucks they just built.

On weekends, the only swipe-friendly place to eat is Eastway. So, they expect Eastway to serve the 6,000+ students on campus to eat there.

I was there when they opened Eastway to the public and had all the school executives in attendance. They showed their pretty side; full staffs, a clean new place, brand new food and people walking around asking if you liked your food and letting you fill out surveys while you were still happy.

But I was also there when the freshmen moved in. Out-of-order machines, no seating, closed stations, incredibly long lines, servers giving you the bare minimum so they can move onto the next person, workers complaining they can’t keep up with no space for them to work and disappointed students anywhere you looked.

This is still the case, and it’s only getting worse.

They’re giving us less, lower quality food for higher prices. Dining Services and the Board of Trustees stopped caring about the 6,000+ students living on campus and gave into corporate greed. They are deliberately choosing to ignore their core beliefs and mission statements, and they are deliberately hurting students just for money. They are consciously and willingly choosing to ignore, distress — and even hurt — the student body.

They’re forcing us to sit and eat in dining halls and not extending hours to help, ruining the university’s reputation and standards. They are not listening to us.

Dining Services and the Board of Trustees did this with only money in their minds and, based on their actions, never even came close to considering the students.

Contact Luis at [email protected]