Final Food Advisory Board meeting of the year sets continuing tone of student input and feedback

Tue, 2017/04/25
Ethan Castro

Friday, April 21, in addition to being the university’s most esteemed holiday of IPRO Day, also saw the final meeting of the Illinois Tech Student Government Association (SGA) and Residence Hall Association (RHA) Food Advisory Board (FAB). FAB exists as an advocacy organization between the student body and Illinois Tech Dining Services in regards to the on-campus dining and catering options provided by the university’s Sodexo contractors. At this meeting, student representatives from both SGA and RHA met with the Sodexo management team to discuss both the future of FAB as the spring 2017 draws to an end and the usual assortment of dining feedback and suggestions straight from the student body.

The meeting’s discussion began with a series of formal introductions and a general inquiry by Chris Ferenc, the Illinois Tech Dining Services General Manager, into the future leadership of the board. Currently, FAB operates as a joint organization under the spheres of influence of both RHA and SGA, with the RHA Senator (an elected position within the organization) functioning as the Chair of FAB. At the time of the meeting, RHA was in the midst of its elections process, so the current RHA Senator, David Arnold, was unsure of whether the organization is to continue to be under his leadership. Regardless, both Arnold and the RHA Secretary, Ethan Castro, expressed their desires to remain active members of FAB both to continue to link student feedback to dining changes and to assist with the board’s transition process at the beginning of the fall 2017 semester. It is also likely that the newly elected SGA executive board will have an interest in taking a more active role in the organization this coming semester.

The majority of the meeting’s discussion was related to a master plan by Sodexo to convert the Pritzker Club into a student coffee lounge. This plan comes from a desire by Illinois Tech Dining Services, based on student feedback, to create a centralized location for student-oriented space and contribute to a better sense of communal student living and working. Ferenc expressed that a major differentiator of the MTCC from other university campus centers is the lack of a coffee shop atmosphere, and he hopes that this proposed renovation will help to remediate that deficiency. Overall, this project is still in its very early design and input phases, and both RHA and SGA will play a large role in gathering student feedback and using that to shape the overall design and implementation of this renovation.

FAB concluded the day’s meeting with a series of student input items over concerns noted in the Commons. One chief area of student dissatisfaction was the strawberry shortcakes served in the Commons as dessert items. Consisting of a biscuit and whipped cream, many students were rather displeased with the quality of this item. Ferenc responded that his team would take this feedback and likely remove the item from future menu rotations. Another concern brought up by RHA members was the early closings of specialty stations in the Commons before the location officially closes. Although the Commons proper does not close for dinner until 7 p.m., students have noted being denied service by stations such as the sandwich line, pasta bar, or desert table as early as 6:45 p.m. Ferenc made it clear that these stations are held to an expectation of being open until 7 p.m. with the rest of the Commons, and he promised his team would oversee this expectation, alongside continued monitoring of signing changes between meals in the same location.

Before the group disbanded for the final time this semester, a bit of thanks was exchanged between both parties. As direct results of FAB meetings this spring semester, increased halal options on the weekends were made available, express meals in the Commons were made available at 11 a.m., the salad bar selection was increased, meal exchange options were expanded, and many other small dining changes occurred. Moving forward, both RHA and SGA hope to continue to use FAB as an outlet for sourcing student input and creating positive changes with Illinois Tech Dining Services.