Students protest Sodexo meal plan changes and new dining protocols
Students organized a sit-in protest on Monday night to bring attention to issues that they have with Sodexo.
Yesterday, students gathered outside of the Usdan Student Center in protest against Sodexo. There were also several students in Upper Usdan Dining Hall with signs that indicated the protesters’ grievances.
Samantha Rockey ’17, who organized the protest, said in an interview with the Justice that “[t]he point of having a protest is to allow students a visible and effective and productive way to express their discontent, so there’s room for every complaint.” The protest, in which there were a variety of participants, took place from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Students made signs, collected signatures from protesters and other students and talked to students about the recent dining changes
On Monday, the Student Union hosted a dining forum, at which numerous complaints and voices were heard—ranging from allergy concerns, vegetarian and vegan concerns, cross-contamination and a lack of variety and quality in food. Rockey said that while she is very supportive of the Student Union, she feels that Sodexo has not allowed the Union to be as effective as it should be.
Many students have raised the concern that there is now a lack of quality and variety in the food at Sherman and Usdan. There were also grievances against the lack of flexibility in regard to where meals can be used. Katie Blocklove ’16 said in an interview with the Justice that she felt that the dining plans don’t “meet student’s needs, quality decreased, availability decreased” and because of this, have “crippled students’ ability to determine what they need.”
Many of the protesters’ complaints stem from the renovation of Lower Usdan Dining Hall and the changes in the meal plans this semester. Protesters felt that the meals were overpriced and did not like the fact that even off-campus students would have to have a meal plan beginning in 2016. Additionally, Rockey and other students at the protest said that they felt that the renovations were not the upgrades or improvements that the University and Sodexo advertised. Many were frustrated by the new buffet-style set-up in Usdan Café because protesters felt they were more limited in their food choices. Arya Boudaie ’17 said in an interview with the Justice that the renovations were a downgrade in terms of food quality, availability and flexibility in the dining plan. He said that he wishes that the dining system were like last year. “Essentially, what’s not broke, don’t fix it,” Phillip Skokos ’15 said in an interview with the Justice. Skokos and Blocklove also both agreed that Upper Usdan should accept meals instead of only dining points.
With so many issues at hand, the organizers of the protest said that they knew that there were many suggestions for solutions. Rockey said that she wanted to make sure that the protest provided students with a chance to be heard and that participants would be able to show University administration and Sodexo that they really cared about their cause.
A sit-in was organized in the hope that many people would be able to attend and air their concerns. There were cards addressed to Sodexo including questions about how to improve the dining experience to which students could respond.
Rockey told the Justice that one of the cards asked what specific food a student would like to see in the dining halls, and students could respond with their specific requests. Blocklove noted that while there were no suggested solutions, a list of student complaints and specific reasons about the new dining hall renovations and meal plans was provided for Sodexo. She said that she hopes to work cooperatively with Sodexo to come up with solutions.