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Opinion: Students Can Do More to Improve Dining

By Paige Noyes

How many times in a day do you complain or hear the same complaints over and over again about Sparkys, the Den, or any other dining option on campus? More than you could probably count.

When students come to college, there aren’t any more homemade meals that can set them at ease. When students arrive on campus for a tour or orientation, they want the truth. The truth is that students like to complain about the dining here at Merrimack College.

The food isn’t exactly bad. However, the students aren’t motivated enough to do anything or find a solution to make them less inclined to complain.

However, the SGA (Student Government Association) dining hall committee members are the exception to this laziness. The dining hall committee was put in place to be a voice for the student body about what the dining staff can do better with these food options on campus.

These students can help solve problems as minor as switching the tubs of butter during the breakfast rush into tabs of butter. They can also be a deciding factor as to what dining options on campus are offered to the students regarding meal options.

Many students may not know that they can attend these dining hall meetings every week. The dining committee meets once a week with the chef at Sparkys, who also has control over many other aspects of the dining on campus.

Marissa Barber, a freshman at Merrimack College, believes that if students had known about these dining hall committee meetings earlier in the year, they would be attending them much more often.

“This is the first time I am hearing that a non-SGA member can attend these meetings, so I feel that they definitely could advertise it more so that more students are aware of it. I do feel that they would get a lot of non-SGA members to go to the meetings and share how they feel, and other students will definitely have more of a voice and a say in these meetings,” Barber states.

This is something that SGA could work on overall, letting students know directly that they are able to attend not only dining hall committee meetings but other committee meetings that have to do with their concerns.

However, Olivia Calvin, a freshman on the dining committee this past Fall 2022 semester and currently in Spring 2023, has heard many complaints about the food, specifically at Sparkys. She agrees that the dining committee rarely has other students outside of SGA attend these meetings to address their concerns and find a solution.

When these concerns from other students were brought to Calvin’s attention, she immediately offered an invitation to join the next dining hall meeting. However, many students have said that it sounds like too much work.

“I think that people like to complain but don’t actually like to come (to meetings) because I have talked to people before, and they say it seems like a lot of work, and I think people may just be lazy, but they like to complain. There have been a few times when people who are in SGA come. That happens a lot when people who are in SGA in a different committee come to the meeting,” says Calvin.

There are also meetings similar to these dining hall committee meetings, like Pizza with the President. At these meetings, all students, including those outside of SGA, are able to attend and voice their concerns to President Hopey. This way, students can directly talk to President

Hopey and other higher-ups within Merrimack’s faculty and head-on address and get answers to students’ concerns.

“I feel like the meetings are advertised pretty well, but I just think, once again, people like to complain but don’t want to go to the event because they just don’t want to,” Clavin reiterates. Although it is important to voice concerns about something that directly affects the students at Merrimack College, it can also be overwhelming and too up-front for the students who do not have experience with these issues, such as the members of SGA.

Shying away from confrontation towards any issues on Merrimack College’s campus could stress out many students and keep them from wanting to rectify any possible solutions. What would be a better solution is sending out a monthly newsletter or survey that addresses the overall concerns of the student body regarding the food on campus.

Thus, students will have a say in what is being served at Sparkys and other dining areas on campus but are also allowing students to address their concerns anonymously rather than confronting someone about their work head-on. This removes the anticipation of a formal meeting and can be more similar to an anonymous poll where students can agree, disagree, and raise questions about the dining options on campus.

After these surveys are sent out and answered, the following month, there will be another survey addressing the same questions and allowing the students to address their concerns. Still, it will also include feedback on what students have seen being changed over the last month, how well the dining staff has handled the student’s concerns, and how well they’ve integrated these solutions.

“I definitely think that a survey would be an effective and easy way of getting student’s feedback and things that they wish the dining hall would do differently, and especially if it’s anonymous, I feel like we would get a lot more responses about the complaints they have (the students) regarding the dining hall,” Baber stipulates.

A system like this already exists, recently, SGA has tabled outside of Sparkys with a google form that allows students to give feedback on all of the committee’s efforts. With a much more habitually announced survey, students will be more inclined to share their thoughts and feedback if they see this progress around campus being made.

Overall, the dining halls on campus have done a great job listening to students and trying to incorporate their feedback into their experiences here. Most recently, Sparkys has changed the chicken, one of the more frequently complained about food items there. This change has received excellent feedback from the students.

Now, all that’s left is for the student body to keep voicing their needs and what they want from the on-campus dining options, whether they are big or small changes. This will ensure the

happiness of all Merrimack College students as long as someone will listen and make sure the students feel heard.

Merrimack College is all about supporting and bettering our community. This is one step in the right direction to help the students feel that they have made a positive change on this campus, improving their peers’ lives and their lives at Merrimack.