Unlimited meals. More variety. Sunday night dinners. Midnight snacks – literally. What more could you ask for from MSU fine dining? Well, in the distant fall \’07, you may not have to ask for anything more.
Under a new plan to revamp the MSU dining experience, all cafeterias will have longer hours and one cafeteria in each zone – Brody, West Circle, South, East and Red Cedar complexes – will stay open until midnight, seven days a week. [students]
Students will have the option to choose from new varieties of the present unlimited meal plan. Valuable, maybe even priceless, Silver, Gold and Platinum options provide unlimited access to any cafeteria on campus and varying amounts of Spartan Cash and guest meal passes.
And all this is what students have asked for through surveys, forums and comment cards for who knows how long. I guess University Food and Housing Services has finally decided to listen to the students and serve accordingly. It’s too bad, then, that half the students currently on campus will never get the chance to experience MSU’s transformed dining experience. And considering the number of students who move off campus, even less than 50 percent will get a taste of this upcoming revolution in university cafeterias.
“We’re doing this because the students have asked for it and most of our changes are due to student input,” said Bruce Haskell, associate director of University Housing\’s Dining Services. “We believe we’re here for the students or else we wouldn’t have taken this project on,” he said. This is the biggest project to take place on campus in 10 years, and right along with the Red Cedar Marketplace changes in Philips-Snyder, the biggest project in university dining in 30 years.
But I wonder why? Because frankly, student input usually doesn’t seem to prompt university departments to take on large institution-wide revamping proposals. How many years have students been protesting MSU’s refusal to join the Worker’s Right Consortium before you, L.A., finally decided to do something about that last year?
And even if HFS hasn’t officially proposed this project for your approval, you must know it’s all a spin-off of Boldness by Design. Boldness by Design is your strategic positioning commitment, according to your Sesquicentennial Convocation Address, for MSU to “become recognized worldwide as the United States’ leading land-grant research university for the 21st century.”
“MSU is already a well-respected education institution and these changes will put us in the forefront of college university dining,” said Haskell. And thank goodness, because these changes are needed more than anything that has ever changed on campus, even if we’ve already come a long way in cafeteria food from 30 years ago.
Because way back when, salads were available only on Sundays, students received a limited amount of food and the idea of going to dinner in your pajamas was fairly high on the list of taboos. But students today live very different lifestyles; they are no longer a breakfast at 7, lunch at noon, dinner at 5 kind of people, said Haskell. “Students are very nocturnal and the new plan is more appropriate for students of this time.”
But that’s not to say there weren’t concerns about the original plan proposed by HFS. Higher costs, the elimination of Totally Take Out, the cooperation of student employees and having to walk outside late at night, were just a few. But HFS was very cooperative and made changes, or at least compromises, accordingly, said Kevin Newman, president of the Residence Halls Association.
The university’s on-campus student government decided to approve the new plan 24-1 with one member abstaining last October. “When RHA was presented with the plan, the board saw a lot of benefits for the average student,” said Newman. “The idea of staying open until midnight, the idea of a Sunday night dinner and the idea of getting the most for your money were all achieved through this plan.”
But do all the benefits really cancel out the concerns that come with these changes? “Keeping the cafeterias open until midnight is a great idea because it probably helps students save money from ordering food late at night,” said English freshman Ryan Johnson, a Shaw cafeteria employee. “But I wouldn’t want to work ‘til midnight, especially at Shaw, where so many people come all the time.”
And as for the proposed elimination of TTO, RHA was nervous simply because of students with tight class schedules, said Newman. RHA and HFS, however, came to a compromise and decided to scale back the number of TTOs on campus to three. They will tentatively be located in Shaw, East and South complexes and their hours will be reduced.
In other words, TTO won’t be open late at night and students will be allowed only one visit per day. The idea of students not having time for a sit-down dinner due to night classes and evening meetings, I guess, didn’t occur to either RHA or HFS.
[drinks] Nor did the thought that reports of victims being raped and stalked on campus occur to the powers that be. Why, then, would the university want to promote a program that requires students to walk from their dorms to other buildings as late as midnight just to get a slice of pepperoni pizza or a ham and cheese sub?
Haskell said students just need to be careful. “The same rules apply,” he said. “Students need to use caution and common sense.” But for some unknown reason, I have an inkling victims of rape and stalking on campus aren’t walking around in the middle of the night for no reason at all; they are usually headed somewhere, perhaps the cafeteria.
But for the “poor college student” the biggest concern is money and getting services worth our few precious dollars. And just to let you in on a little secret – eating in the cafeterias isn’t exactly the cheapest thing in the world. So the idea of having the cheapest plan, Silver, cost at least $100 more than the present unlimited plan is just a little ridiculous, even if specific prices have not yet been determined.
Current MSU students will, however, be allowed to purchase their current meal plans at their current price plus inflation as long as they stay on campus, said Haskell. At least people on the 10 meal plan won’t be forced into buying an unlimited number of meals more than they have right now. But for many students, having to pay even more for food that will probably be just as bad as it is now is simply outrageous.
“Some cafeterias are definitely better than others. Holden has different entrées put together into well-balanced meals. Case, on the other hand only offers one entrée and they cook potatoes all the time,” said international relations sophomore Stuart Smith. “I don’t think they do a good job catering to students with special food needs. I have a friend who’s a vegetarian and he’s almost always eating cereal because there isn’t anything substantial for him to eat.”
Both RHA and HFS may argue that with all the added conveniences and services provided with the new plan, we’re getting our money’s worth and that there’s just not anything that can be done to make dining any cheaper. However, there are plenty of students who just don’t want an unlimited meal plan and don’t care about guest passes. And there are plenty of students who don’t want to be required to purchase Spartan Cash.
But the real question is, how many students really know about these upcoming changes and how transparent has the University been in sharing its concerns about the plan with those the plan will affect the most? A FAQ page may be available on the HFS Web site, but frankly, I’m not so sure how many students really have www.hfs.msu.edu on their list of most frequented sites, unless of course they’re just checking out the menu before every meal.
These changes, as they will highly affect every student living on campus, will have a tremendous impact when it comes to changes in student lifestyle. And things are coming to a head rather quickly, too; some difference will be seen as early as this coming fall. Ultimately, the plan may be geared toward the modern MSU student and the plan may be bold in its effort to make MSU a world-renown dining institution, but I urge you, L.A., to carefully consider the benefits and consequences of these changes before you send out your official seal of approval. Because bold is bold, but bold may simply not be the best.
Revolutionized E. Ting

Learn more about the new meal plans at http://www.hfs.msu.edu/uh/campus/meal_plan_transition.html.
Learn more about Boldness by Design at http://strategicpositioning.msu.edu/.

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