One of the biggest hot button topics regarding life at Stony Brook, for both residents and commuter students alike is campus dining. How many times have you or your friends had an argument over which over-priced, undercooked meal you would prefer to have on a given day?
If you’ve ever spent a significant amount of time on Stony Brook’s campus, you are undoubtedly aware of the fact that to order even a slice of pizza and a soda, could end up costing you $4.00 more than if it were ordered at the Dominoes located just off-campus.
For students living in campus residences, where a meal plan is required, the struggle becomes how to properly ration your meal points each week, so that by the time finals come around you aren’t reduced to eating ramen and dry toast every night.
The campus dining prices are set by the Meal Plans Resolution Committee, which is open to students and is influenced by popular opinion of those present, so in theory the more students who show up to the resolution meetings and plead their case for a more inexpensive menu, the better chance there is of paying less in the future.
The debate about the prices of food, and the quality of campus foods helped spawn a Facebook group dubbed “SBU Food Complaints/Improvements.” The group, which had attracted over 1,500 members, served as a medium for dozens of students to lodge complaints, post pictures of inadequate serving sizes, underprepared food or to simply gripe about what they considered to be unfair prices or practices within campus dining facilities.
The newest addition to the roster of dining services on campus is the West Side Dining facility in Kelly Quad. Now in its second stage of expansion, West Side Dining has been facing complications in the months since it had opened.
“Now that the expanded section of West Side Dining is open, we’re pretty much just fine tuning everything there. For instance we’re getting student feedback now that the services are open,” said Angela Agnello Director of Marketing and Communications for the Faculty Student Association.
Not all students are happy with the new dining center, some, such as junior Nghi Doan, felt the renovations to West Side Dining have been for the worst.
“Jasmine is my favorite place to eat on campus, it has food that decently tastes good,” said Doan. “West is very bad with food services, they tend to screw up my orders sometimes… The old Kelly Dining was much better. Food quality [at West Side Dining] just isn’t that good, plus they usually get my order wrong,” Doan said, adding that his order had been wrong on three out of his five visits to West Side.
Another issue students raised was while everything in West Side Dining was made-to-order, there were always lines and long waits to get food.
“Students would say ‘I have to get to class and I love having the made-to-order, but what can you offer me that I can get on the run?’” Agnello said. “And that’s why we opened that grab-and-go section. Now students can get the salads, sandwiches, parfaits, fruit, chips, and beverages.”
Agnello emphasized the significance of student input in the project, stating that FSA is hearing the complaints students have and striving to deal with them the best they can.
“We’ve been working on getting more feedback from students to give them more of what they want,” said Agnello. “You know when phase one was still occurring, and the construction aspect was still going on, what we were hearing from students was ‘we want more seating’ and we’ve added 260 more seats. Now they have wifi access, they can sit, study, relax, eat and do what they need to do there.”
While these changes are a move in the right direction, it feels like Stony Brook students have deemed them too little, too late.
“I’ve been to West Side Dining and its…okay. The food is just like everywhere else, you can get the same type of food anywhere on campus, but it seems to be a little more expensive,” said Shanice Williams, a student. “I can wait 30 minutes in line to eat a grilled cheese sandwich, or I can go somewhere else where there isn’t a line.”
In response to the complaints of a lack of healthy or vegetarian meal options, West Side Dining has expanded its menu to include a host of vegetarian and vegan-friendly items including Spinach and Mushroom Calzones, Four Cheese Ravioli, and Penne Pasta Primavera.
Though West Side Dining has been operational for several months, the official Grand Opening has been scheduled for April 16. The event, which begins at 7 p.m., will feature V.I.P. Cabanas, menu specials, a DJ, Roulette tables, Poker, slot machines, and plenty of prizes.