Friday, March 5, 2021

Algonquin Dining Hall closes this academic year

Algonquin Dining Hall has been closed since the beginning of the fall semester, but many Plattsburgh State students may not know its current state — and the future of their on-campus meal options.

Executive Director of PSUC’s College Auxiliary Services Wayne Duprey said Algonquin ceased its lunch services this academic year. While Little Al’s remains open, Algonquin serves as the venue for specific ethnic meals and currently houses the college’s catering department.

In a smaller back corner of Algonquin now sits the Catering Department, where Catering Manager Kristen Castro and Director of Operations Mark Brothers have new offices.
Castro said the department used to be housed in the Angell College Center behind the Sundowner before they moved at the end of August.

“[It was] a little tiny office with no windows,” Castro said. “This [office] is definitely an upgrade.”

The CAS website said closing Algonquin became necessary to help provide additional value into existing meal plans, and its capital cost was not sustainable. All Algonquin employees were transferred to other eating locations on campus, and the space’s future is currently being evaluated.

“They knew that the space would be under-utilized,” Castro said. “It didn’t make it cost effective to keep Big Al’s open.”

At PSUC, Chartwells is a food service company that operates through the CAS and provides the campus with meals and catering.

Resident District Manager of Chartwells Maureen Faucher said the reasons behind the Algonquin’s closing was more under the control of Duprey and CAS. Faucher believes the space should be recreated to satisfy student need and the needs of the campus community.

“We can partner with [student] groups, having food involved,” Faucher said. “[That’s] something we’ve heard in surveys that kids want. They want more events connected with music, food, art, culture and community. I think those are things we can accomplish and not just in Algonquin.”

Faucher said a strong student opinion matters for students to understand what the space should be utilized for.

“We’re always trying to hear every voice on campus, but it’s easier for us to hear a collective voice,” she said. “I think there’s a lot more we can do from a promotional standpoint to engage [the campus community].”

Castro said there hasn’t been any confusion among students as to Algonquin’s closing.

“I think that those students have found other options,” Castro said. “I definitely think Big Al’s had its own following, so I do wonder where those students are now.”

PSUC sophomore anthropology major Katelyn Powers said she learned about Algonquin’s closing in her anthropology of food class. Other students in her class even said they missed the dining hall and weren’t aware of its closing.

“I think I figured [Algonquin] was closed, but I didn’t hear anything about it,” Powers said. “It’s not even listed on the website anymore. I ate there almost every day last semester.”

Powers said her classmates thought Algonquin was better than Clinton because of its organic appeal, specifically the organic salad bar that was advertised and painted on the walls of Algonquin.

“They said it was one of the only places they really wanted to eat on campus, and now that it’s gone, they just put up with everything else,” Powers said.

However, Faucher said the food between Algonquin and Clinton had little to no difference.

“We did have a different profile of food [in Algonquin] at one time, but ultimately it came from all the same sources,” Faucher said.

Castro said the decision for the unused space has gone to the CAS Board, and a few ideas have been tossed around. She said the department would like to see it be used as an additional conference room, as opposed to the Ballrooms in the ACC where they’re usually held.

“When we feed them in the Ballrooms, we have build buffet stations, whereas here it’s already built, so they would use the seating area as the conference area,” Castro said.
To some student dismay, Algonquin will never be a dining hall again.

“Without Algonquin, I feel like I’ve had to get food at the Downer every day,” Powers said. “It makes me only want to eat off campus.”

Email Emma Vallelunga at cp@cardinalpointsonline.com

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