The Student Association has been working on a range of issues that affect student life with College Auxiliary Services, a non-profit organization that manages a variety of campus services.
The SA has been fielding complaints and concerns from students who have been dealing with problems ranging from rising prices at campus eateries to confusion around shuttle service hours. In one example of the latter issue, several students were temporarily stranded at Market 32.
“We want to keep the shuttle running as efficiently as possible, and something like the Market 32 thing happening is unacceptable, so that’s a concern,” SA President Ahmed Metwaly said. “When we hear about problems we will bring them up and do our best to solve them.”
CAS is utilizing the Coding Club to jumpstart the “Shuttler App,” which would allow students to get real-time updates on the shuttles’ locations.
“CAS and our shuttle drivers strive to ensure that our students are aware of the shuttle’s regularly scheduled hours as well as any last-minute changes that may occur,” Dana Kellerman, the executive director of College Auxiliary Services, said.
The CAS has been struggling to recruit qualified shuttle drivers as the organization deals with a tight budget and a competitive labor market.
“That challenge is why some campuses have completely outsourced their shuttle service or no longer offer a campus shuttle, requiring students to utilize public transportation only,” Kellerman said.
One issue was resolved early in the semester by the CAS after the SA started receiving a lot of student complaints surrounding late-night deals at the Sundowner. Loaded-late nights had seemingly replaced the original late-night menu, and when the SA raised this issue to CAS, it was resolved fairly quickly and the usual late-night deals at the Sundowner were restored.
Other campus problems brought up by students and the SA have yet to reach such an easy solution.
Many students are running into problems with limited hours on the weekends at different dining options around campus.
“We also asked for extended hours during weekends,” Metwaly said, “[CAS] hasn’t given me an actual answer on if they plan to do it or not.”
Kellerman responded to student complaints about weekend hours.
“We have not changed our standard operating weekend or late-night dining hours,” she said. “While we are also experiencing supply chain challenges and labor shortages due to the pandemic, we continue to find ways to provide a variety of menu items while keeping our venues open.”
Besides limited hours, dining options have also decreased around campus. Both dining options in Burghy’s Lounge have closed during the pandemic and have yet to be replaced.
“I miss being able to get Subway, or something besides the Downer when I’m at the library,” Gus Graspointner, a senior expeditionary studies major student, said. “When are they going to put something else in there?”
When asked about the plans to fill the vacancies at Burghy’s, Kellerman said, “At this time, there are no plans to add restaurants to the Burghy’s space. There are ongoing discussions regarding the best usage of that space and the Sundowner regarding prospective renovations and new dining concepts.”
While students are faced with fewer dining options and decreased dining hours, complaints to the SA about rising food prices are common.
“We were told by students that they weren’t happy that the prices had gone up,” Metwaly said. “The value of the meal plans went down technically because of the increasing prices, but some things have lowered prices, the CAS kind of reshuffled those items. ”
According to Metwaly, the price changes can again be attributed to pandemic-related employment and supply chain problems the CAS is facing.
In response to this issue, CAS pointed to rising food prices nationwide, but also defended the value of student meal plans.
“I disagree that the value of our student’s meal plans have suffered,” Kellerman said. “While other campuses continue to increase their meal plan rates while closing venues, we are proactively managing our program, launching new venues and meal concepts all while still providing excellent value for overall dining services.”
Kellerman cited the opening of Kent Cafe in 2020 during the pandemic, “Scoops” shakes returning to the Sundowner, the addition of a fresh made sushi option, and the opening of both Absurd Bird and Tortilla, two new dining venues in Clinton. Kellerman also mentioned the introduction of Rock Bot, a free app that allows students to control the music in the dining halls.
“I’m happy with the response to late nights for sure, that was solved fairly quickly, and I’m understanding of their position at the moment with the supply chain and employment problems, but I’m not letting up,” Metwaly said. “I’m going to keep bringing it up until they give me something that I feel is good for the students and would make students happy.”
CAS and the SA will continue to work together on issues that affect student life, though both sides mentioned that communication between the two organizations could be better.
“They definitely respect the SA and they definitely want to hear what we have to say because we’re their customers, if we’re not happy, they shouldn’t be happy. The CAS needs us as students, so whenever we bring up something it definitely carries some weight. I would encourage any and all students, when there are issues, to reach out to us at the SA,” Metwaly said.