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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Brandeis community calls on Sodexo to adapt

Published: September 5, 2014
Section: Editorials

Despite the fact that an incredible numbers of changes and renovations have been implemented to the Brandeis dining facilities this year, student frustrations with the meal services have reached an all-time high. Complaints are rampant on social media sites, garnering mass attention, and even spoken aloud in the lines of Lower Usdan. A satirical “Sodexo Fan Page” has even been created on Facebook.

While many complaints are hyperbolic, they signify reasonable concerns. First, the fact that meals, or “swipes” as they are referred to now, can only be used in Lower Usdan, Sherman or at the Hoot Market, is detrimental to students. Students have expressed outrage with no longer being able to use a meal at popular dining locations on campus, such as Einstein’s, or even the recently remodeled Upper Usdan. A smart business decision for Sodexo, it almost ensures that students will not use all of their meals. It is inevitable that some people will eat at other venues a few times throughout the week, and are therefore forced to use points or actual cash. But at a university level, meal plans cannot and should not be based off of a company’s profits alone. Sodexo needs to listen to the needs of the students at Brandeis University and help us find a happy medium.

The unlimited meal plan itself, which theoretically should offer the most flexibility, faces imposing restrictions, forbidding students from taking advantage of the Take Three option at the Hoot Market. Those students on the go without the leisure of ample time for a sit down meal at one of the two buffet-style facilities on campus will inevitably struggle to make use of their meals.

Due to the recent renovations, students who opt to use a meal at Lower Usdan can no longer dine with their peers who may elect to spend points in Upper Usdan. The new system is no longer conducive to fostering relationships among students.

In addition to this, kosher and vegan options in Lower Usdan—one of the two places in the building where a swipe can be used- are virtually non-existant. Those suffering from allergies apparently must eat at their own risk, as no nutritional information or ingredient content is posted by the buffet of dishes available at Lower Usdan.

However, we understand that at this point in the semester, with meal plans selected and paid for, that extreme changes are unlikely to take place. We at The Hoot hope that Sodexo will focus on improving the hours of the dining facilities where students will be eating and work towards implementing more options for those with dietary restrictions. Lower Usdan is only open until 7 p.m. daily; this is unacceptable considering students’ late schedules. Many people eat dinner between 7 and 8 p.m., and as such many people are unable to use a meal if they have to eat dinner at a later hour.

Yesterday, Vice President of Operations Jim Grey announced in an email that Sherman Dining Hall would be open until 9 p.m. on Sundays-Thursdays. This is aimed to appease students who want to eat later, but doesn’t answer the actual problem of Lower Usdan closing early.

The Hoot hopes that Sodexo notes the complaints of students and adapts over the course of the semester. Sodexo should make sure to work with Brandeis students as well as the university administration, as collaboration between all three parties is vital to obtaining the most ideal outcome.

We do not expect immediate or utopian changes. However, combined with the issues students are currently having with the new mailroom, it seems as if basic university services are becoming unnecessarily complex. Not only does this make things more difficult for new students, but it confuses and frustrates upperclassmen as well.