SU Senate passes Dining Services resolution 11-2
Student Union senators passed a resolution aimed at increasing student input in Dining Services decisions Tuesday night after receiving feedback following the elimination of mozzarella sticks, crepes and tater tots from Bear’s Den’s everyday menu.
An initial version of the resolution—blocked at last Tuesday’s Senate session—was criticized by opposing senators for its lack of hard data and for being too narrow in scope.
In response to these objections, the Senate’s Dining Services Committee sent a survey out to Washington University students through multiple Facebook groups and broadened the resolution, asking the administration to seek student input not only in Dining Services matters but in other areas, as well.
The survey, released last Sunday on Facebook, garnered over 1,200 responses, with 94.9 percent of respondents answering yes to the question, “Would you like to see these food options restored?”
Survey respondents expressed concern that Dining Services was taking away their autonomy by making changes without seeking out student opinions.
“It’s not your job to make sure we eat right. It’s up to us students to make decisions regarding our diet. Next time you want to remove a food option because you think it’s ‘unhealthy,’ remember that we are autonomous beings,” one respondent wrote.
“I appreciate all that dining services does for us. But I would appreciate input before they make serious changes. We are paying for all this,” another respondent wrote.
In order to comply with guidelines set by Partnership for a Healthier America, Dining Services had to reduce the number of fried food options available at each Bear’s Den food station. Tara Bone, assistant vice chancellor of operations, noted that Dining Services made the decision to eliminate these food items from the daily menu because they weren’t selling as well but added that these menu items might still appear from time-to-time.
“We looked at counts, what’s selling more. And tater tots and mozzarellas weren’t selling as much when this was reviewed, so they were taken off the regular daily menu. But they didn’t disappear; they just weren’t on the menu everyday,” Bone said.
Speaker of the Senate and junior Ben Hauser said the support from the survey encouraged senators to pass the resolution who had been opposed last week.
“The big issue the first time was almost entirely administrative; I think the main thing that was brought up with a lot of senators was that there was no hard data to back up that people wanted this change,” Hauser said. “And I think, with the survey being done this week, that gave people the hard data they needed.”
While supporters of the resolution felt that the survey demonstrated wide-scale student support for the initiative, some senators felt that the methods used to conduct the survey were not sound.
“As someone who does surveys in a professional setting, every single one of your questions is leading. And it’s so dramatic. The impact of the statistics looks good, but you surveyed a population who you would not usually survey because of the reaction to this event,” senator and senior Nicole Nemec—one of two senators to vote against the resolution, along with junior Andrew Englund—said at Tuesday’s Senate session.
Sophomore and senator Zakary Kadish allowed that the statistical methods were imperfect but felt that the large amount of support could not only have resulted from survey bias.
“Some of the questions could have been phrased a little better for the sake of bias, but I don’t think you can dupe 1,200 people into answering a survey and say their opinion is biased,” Kadish said.
Some senators also argued that the issue of foods offered at Bear’s Den was minute, but Hauser said that some students might be more interested in this issue because it affects them more personally.
“I think mozz sticks and tater tots and crepes, they all hold that special place in our hearts, where they might not be the healthiest food, but they’re kind of that one thing we can depend on when we go back late at night,” Hauser said. “And so, I think that taking away an emotional symbol like that probably pisses people off a lot more than less interesting issues, and I think that’s what makes us act quickly in this case.”
Kadish added that the food options offered are not necessarily important but said he sees these menu changes as a way of increasing the interaction between Dining Services and students.
“Even if the issue with the food’s more moot, which I think it is, this resolution still fixes other issues and still presents other ways of communication with Dining Services and the student body,” Kadish said.