While the Student Association exists to hear student needs and take action to fulfill them, students in turn need to clearly express feedback when these changes based on student need are made. A lack of this feedback is threatening the continuation of recent changes to our meal plan.
Years ago, the serveries stopped providing Saturday dinner to get students out of the library, get their heads out of their books and send them to explore Houston and find dinner. Today, the inaccessibility of off-campus dinner options overshadows this purpose. Student Association President Griffin Thomas’ Student Access and Success Report mentions Saturday dinner with friends as an inaccessible opportunity due to the financial cost.
In response to that report and surveys at the university and college levels, I worked with Housing and Dining to implement a more flexible and accessible meal plan which includes later dinner hours, earlier breakfast times and Saturday night dinner. Even though students seemed to want all these changes, some are underutilized. Early breakfast and late dinner have a steady but small usership, while Saturday dinner is barely used. Last week, only five students went to Saturday dinner.
Reintroducing Saturday dinner seemed a logical step for a university whose student body has grown by about 1,000 in the past 12 years with students of varying needs and backgrounds. Maybe you wanted to avoid going off campus for food the weekend before a big exam, or wanted a more affordable alternative to eating off campus. Student survey data, conversations with peers and discussions with administrators also indicated students liked the idea of Saturday dinner.
However, the execution did not fit the idea. Students complain that, for the cost in Tetra of Saturday dinner, they may as well eat off campus. Others do not even know this option exists. These responses confuse Housing and Dining because they are trying to meet a student need that exists on paper but apparently not in practice. Although a culture shift may make Saturday dinner normal one day, it currently does not seem used enough so it may be removed as an alternative option.
I am asking you all to help the SA do our job and meet your needs. Tell us what you want through constructive feedback (you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org) and attendance. Having Saturday dinner on campus does not mean you will never eat off campus again. However, I think it could be time for us to have a choice. If you agree, check out Seibel Servery from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday nights through the end of the semester.