An op-ed submitted by Stanley McAfee. McAfee is a senior at the College.
In my experience attending the College of Charleston, you would be hard pressed to find a student who genuinely enjoys eating at the dining halls. Contrary to the position of Dining Services – who apparently believe that students’ dissatisfaction with their culinary experience is due to an absence of loud music, unnecessary televisions and “aesthetic” seating arrangements – I propose a much simpler explanation: that the food service Aramark provides for the College is extremely poor. Their ingredients are low-quality, their recipes repetitive and unappetizing and their service slow and inexpert.
The average meal plan works out to roughly $8-10 per meal over the course of the semester. This is a standard entrée at almost any other restaurant, which is practically guaranteed to be higher quality than whatever the dining halls are serving. And, of course, this is if they’re even serving anything at all. Pop in during one of their unposted meal times, and you’ll be lucky if you even find breadsticks or cold pizza; brave the rush during regular hours, particularly at Liberty, you will find anything edible is typically gone immediately after being served. The situation at the Stern Center Food Court is even more dire, as its individualized nature lends itself to slower service, longer lines and a much higher price per item.
Admittedly, the dining halls are high-volume cafeterias, and it isn’t fair to compare them directly to more typical restaurants, even fast-food joints. But in some sense, that’s a bad excuse for worse service. Every single incoming freshman is required to purchase a qualifying meal plan — one of the three most expensive plans. Being forced to serve lower-quality food to keep up with demand, almost by definition, sure doesn’t stop them from charging students full price. That the last day to alter or cancel a meal plan is five days after the start of the semester makes it even more clear that what Aramark is offering is not a service, but a scam, perpetrated against the students of the College — students that Aramark clearly sees not as customers, but a captive source of steady income.
Aramark’s apathetic attitude was manifestly obvious last semester, when Chick-fil-A was closed due to a rat infestation that originated in City Bistro. City Bistro was closed, reopened after a few days, and closed again even as Dining Services assured the campus that everything was fine — a cycle that continued for weeks, and was not properly resolved until the beginning of this semester. Clearly, Aramark was far more interested in making money than it was in ensuring its facilities were sanitary enough to serve food.
This attitude has expressed itself in its current handling of food-insecure students as well. Instead of owning up to their immoral business decision not to allow bought and paid for meal swipes to roll over each semester, Aramark (in their infinite capacity for greed and deflection) has instead decided to shift the blame to the students themselves for “wasting” the low-quality food they throw away when they leave the dining halls — as if that isn’t what happens to the food at the end of each day anyway.
The logical solution to cutting waste is to save leftovers, but never one to miss a business opportunity, Dining Services also charges students for a special box and police how much food people try to take home. Which is the real waste: students tossing out half of an undercooked porkchop, or Aramark requiring they buy a “premium” meal plan their first semester and then revoking it from them three months later?
Aramark is contracted to provide food service. For years, they have consistently failed to live up to even minimal expectations of health and safety, availability and diversity of food, and reasonable cost and speed. It’s time for the College to fire Aramark and find a new food service provider. We don’t serve them – they serve us. And if they aren’t serving the needs of students, you have to wonder: why are they here?