MSU’s empty promises leave students out in the cold literally and figuratively. Students living on the west side of campus were forced to hike for 15 minutes or more through driving hail and freezing temperatures to Rendezvous Dining Hall on Sept. 30. Students on the east side of campus completed the same frosty journey, this time toward Miller Dining Hall, on Oct. 1.
This icy expedition directly resulted from a shift in university policy regarding campus dining halls. On the MSU Residence Life page, it states that “Miller Dining Commons in the Hedges Complex and Rendevous will be open seven days a week” [sic]. During the first week of school, University food Services (UFS) changed this policy to closing dining halls on alternating weekend days and updated their UFS page to reflect the change. Under this system, Miller is closed on Saturdays and Rendezvous on Sundays.
As a prospective student and current freshman, I expected that MSU would fulfill their promises. I love this university and think that it is exemplary in many areas, but the dining hall policy is a disappointing departure from this pattern.
Obviously, UFS saw this as only a minor inconvenience to students. Richard Huffman, Director of UFS, said, “Our team decided that having one building with most concepts open was better than having both open on weekends but with only 2-3 concepts open.” However, Montana is not known for its temperate climate and gentle weather, and MSU students are not known for having the kind of free time it takes to spend an hour each day walking back and forth to dining halls.
This change puts an inordinate amount of stress on MSU students, many of whom choose to forgo eating in order to avoid the long walk. Like me, freshman Avery Berg is upset by the new policy. With her brutally busy schedule, Berg can’t afford the hour spent away from her desk on weekends. “Time is a luxury in college, so I opted for scrounging last weekend. I ate nothing but Nature Valley bars and some biscuits, which is not ideal.”
Berg’s sentiment is echoed by many students around campus. MSU promised a reliable food source to students with a seven-day meal plan, and it is now leaving many of them to consume foods with poor nutritional value and little variety rather than their pledged “healthy, safe and enjoyable food options.”
UFS has no legitimate excuse for the new policy. Instead, they point to the fact that MSU’s dining halls always start out understaffed in the fall semester and that the 55 percent student staffing level has been achieved earlier and quicker than previous years. However, any Jabs Hall business student worth their salt would tell you to make sure your business can meet the expectations of its customers, especially in terms of labor. If they’re more outspoken, they might also add that you should never rely solely on inconsistent student labor to fill a quota.
Huffman said that filling the remaining 32 student positions is UFS’ “number one focus and priority” and added that the department strives to “give the highest quality at all times.” I wish them all the best, but the current situation is unacceptable both for me and all other students on MSU campus.