Sodexo has taken great strides toward improving the dining experience for University students, and this board commends Sodexo on its efforts to please as many students as possible with the food served in the dining halls. However, because Sodexo has an everlasting capacity for improvement, this board has recommendations looking into the future. 

On Oct. 18, the University hosted a “Battle of the Chefs!” in which chefs from Wheelock College, English First International Language Campus of Boston, Suffolk University and Brandeis University competed against each other by creating culinary street cuisine. The Facebook event created for this competition advertised Japanese, Mexican, Korean and American specialties. In the end, Brandeis chefs were crowned victorious, and this board applauds Sodexo for their recent attempts to not only expand options for students in the dining halls but also incorporate some fun. Sodexo’s themed meals in both Sherman and Usdan dining halls are one of many ways to increase the variety of food offered on campus. Past efforts have included Harry Potter- and Halloween-themed meals. These events are a step in the right direction and should be encouraged.

Another positive effort made by Brandeis dining services is to remove taxes on any food-related purchases on campus. Specifically, this applies to students who are not on a meal plan and pay out-of-pocket for a meal swipe into a dining hall or items at the Hoot Market. Relieving the extra cost that taxes can contribute to a purchase, especially for a basic necessity like food, benefits students. 

Even acknowledging these attempts to enhance students’ dining experience, this board urges Sodexo to continue looking for ways to improve.

Recently, the company released a campus dining survey to assess students’ opinions of their dining experience. This board applauds Sodexo’s initiative on this front because it is important to value students’ voices. Furthermore, with each survey response, Brandeis Dining will donate $1 to the American Red Cross to support the hurricane-relief efforts in the United States and Puerto Rico. 

Some of the questions on the survey address hours of operation and pricing, which are two areas that need improvement. This semester in particular, dining locations’ hours have not consistently followed posted times. For example, the Hoot Market was closed unexpectedly on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017 and Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. Such last-minute alterations to the dining schedule can pose major inconveniences to students, and this is made worse by Sodexo’s failure to communicate the new, temporary hours. This board recognizes that unexpected circumstances may arise and require impromptu changes to dining locations’ hours. However, we urge Sodexo to publicize these schedule changes as much as possible by making sure the “What’s Open Now” section of the University Dining website is up to date. Additionally, sending an email to notify students of any irregular dining hours would go a long way toward fostering good communication with the University community and ensuring that students are able to benefit from the dining options on campus.

This board also urges Sodexo to review pricing for meal plans, namely the 120- and 80- block semester meal plans offered to residents of the Charles River Apartments, Ridgewood Quad, 567 South St. and Foster Mods. Assuming one point is equal in value to one dollar, each meal swipe on these meal plans comes out to $14.80 and $17.90 for the 120-block meal plan and 80-block meal plan, respectively. By contrast, for the faculty and staff block meal plan options, each swipe is worth $8.00 and $7.50 per meal on a 15-block meal plan and 30-block meal plan, respectively. Because many students are on financial aid and may have a hard time paying for meal plans, it is concerning that students pay almost double for a meal swipe as faculty and staff. 

Along with this, it is unacceptable that Sodexo does not provide clear information about the dollar value of a single point. The above figures assume that one point is equal in value to one dollar, which may not be accurate. This board urges Sodexo to look into options for making the cost of student meal swipes more reasonable — particularly on the block plans — and encourages the University to increase transparency regarding the monetary value of dining points. 

Another critical area for improvement is making sure the food scales used in the Hoot Market are accurate. Each scale is attached to the cash register so that students can be charged for that food item accurately. One scale has been inspected by the Department of Weights and Measures and is legal to use. The scale attached to the opposite register is not certified and is deemed incorrect by the Department of Weights and Measures. This board urges Sodexo to fix the second scale or purchase a new one. Using a dysfunctional scale runs the risk of overcharging students for food. 

Overall, this board commends Sodexo for its attempts to improve the student dining experience thus far. However, we encourage Sodexo to look into other areas of improvement and continue to strive to make University dining as efficient and accessible to as many students as possible.