by Mia Bornstein
Breakfast at Hampshire Dining Commons is undeniably a big deal since it is the only dining hall in the Southwest residential area that serves breakfast to the roughly 5,500 students living there, which I’m sure, is nothing the DC takes lightly. So why then, has my satisfaction gone down this semester?
Of course there are reasons for all of these changes, but are they truly justified reasons that students would agree on? I’m not so sure. If we are starting small, they do not have any good cereals, ever. Why not actually provide me with some filling Special K or some cholesterol-lowering Honey Nut Cheerios once in a while? They do not offer any Greek yogurt either, a much healthier option than the sugary vanilla and strawberry yogurts they have, and the coffee tastes like dirt.
What is the reason for never having plain pancakes in the main entrée line? If a poll were to be taken on how many students would prefer zucchini walnut pancakes to the classic buttermilk pancake, there is not a doubt in my mind that the buttermilk would win. What’s worse is that students do not even have the option to choose an alternative breakfast carb because they got rid of the waffle machine.
I also want to know why bacon in the omelet line no longer exists. As far as healthy options go, an egg white omelet is right at the top, and taking away one of the few meats that I would enjoy in my omelet is not making me appreciate a healthier diet. It just makes me not want an omelet. And why does the omelet line now close half an hour earlier? Students can wait in line for up to 30 minutes for omelets, and now it closes even earlier? How is that supposed to encourage students to come in and enjoy breakfast if they cannot even get an omelet at 10:40 in the morning?
Hampshire has simply gone from providing me with a healthy variety of options, to what feels like in many ways, forcing me to eat the healthiest of healthy options that they choose and want to provide on their own schedule; many choices are now so specifically green, lean, and mean that I struggle to fully enjoy breakfast on any given morning.
But truly the biggest thorn in my side, and perhaps that of many others, is that I am prohibited from filling up a normal drinking glass with orange juice, instead being directed to a tiny triple shot glass of fresh OJ. Since there is a limited selection of drink options (water with fruit slices infused in it is basically all you can drink), being hassled about the one breakfast drink most people want is incredibly frustrating. You can rest assured that if I ask you for a big cup of orange juice, I am going to drink that much orange juice, whether it is out of my normal cup or five of your tiny ones. All I ask is that you save me the trouble, and your dishwashers the hassle, and let me have a big glass if I ask.
The beginning of my semester this year truly saw me off to a terrible start after an unfortunate run in at the orange juice station. Upset with how many small, non-stackable glass cups had ended up on my table, I turned to the manager of Hampshire, whose job description includes ensuring customer service and a great dining experience. I told him how that, although I acknowledge and understand cost saving in any dining experience, the fact that I cannot have a normal sized glass of orange juice was frustrating and a complete drag on my meal each day. Although at first he said that he was the man to see with any concerns, he then told me there was nothing he could do, and to instead turn to the online system where I can send my concerns for someone else to read.
So as I had assured him I would do, I found the “Txt n Tell” system, which encourages students to text Hampshire, or any other dining hall, and give ratings and leave additional comments if they please. This information comes straight from the UMass Dining website and has been posted February of this year. The article clearly states at the bottom that once a student has provided feedback, the message will be posted to one of the various television sets in the DC where managers will have a chance to respond to feedback.
Respond to feedback. What an interestingly vague statement. Because the peculiar thing is that I have been eating in Hampshire at least once a day since its reopening in September 2013, and not once have I seen that taking place. Is that a system so that managers can come over to my table and respond to my suggestions? Are they taking notes on a bench so that they can initiate changes later? Or is it simply not taking place at all? Which then would bring into question whether or not the dining commons is failing to take its job of processing these suggestions seriously. I still question where and when student suggestions are being taken into consideration.
If one were to look to the UMass Dining website, you would be mistakenly construed to believe that there was nothing at all to change about the dining commons because the only articles posted are completely biased to rave about how great they are all around.
Perhaps once a month Hampshire could hold a meeting in its reserve-able room and hear the voice of students. It could even take after restaurants and leave suggestion cards on the tables so that students can directly write down the things they feel mid-bite. For a dining commons that prides itself on being one of the top in the nation, one would think that the satisfaction of the students would be more of a priority, but yet, all I have seen is mine going down. I simply wish that the the voices of students be heard so that our satisfaction and eating experience at Hampshire Dining Commons can be as good as it was when it reopened last September.