The Student Center Dining Services: A Multimedia Project

For my Media Convergence class, we were assigned to create a multimedia project over something on campus or in town.

I chose to cover the dining services in the student center.

On most days, the dining services in Northwestern’s student center leave much to be desired.

The vendors, Mondo Subs and Coyote Jack’s Grill, are both owned by Chartwells Dining Services. Upon researching information concerning campus dining services, I came across this message posted on http://www.dineoncampus.com/nwosu/  in (I assume early 2009).

Welcome to Chartwells Dining Services and DineOnCampus.com at Northwestern Oklahoma State University. Whether you have navigated to this site because you are a student, curious as to what is for dinner or you clicked your way here because you are a parent whose student is in the process of selecting a school, we are confident you will find what you need here.

We strive to make our dining program one of the best – designed specifically for students to get together while enjoying a delicious, nutritious meal. We keep it fun with special events and innovative promotions. Each year we make enhancements to the dining program based on student feedback and this year is no different! Whether you are on the go, an early riser (breakfast starts at 7am) or a health conscious diner, we are sure we have a program that will fit your needs.

This summer we will embark on an ambitious remodeling project. Coronado Cafe will receive a facelift with new colors, a new salad bar, some new seating and a new tile floor. The Snack Bar in the Student Center will get two of our in house brands, Coyote Jack’s Grill and Mondo Subs. We are all very excited about these improvements and they will be completed for the opening of school in Fall ’09

In the following pages you will find information pertaining to topics such as menus, service hours, nutrition and much more. If you cannot locate an answer to a specific question or just don’t see what you are looking for, please contact us so we can personally address your questions or concerns. We are committed to providing quality food with exceptional service.

Thank you for letting us be such an integral part of each and every day.

Ted Robinson-Director of Dining Services

Not only is this message out of date, but I really don’t think the information listed reflects the true situation at hand.

Thursday, November 8:

I submitted a lengthy comment to the dining site and offered an opportunity for feedback.

I have some very large concerns about the dining services in Northwestern’s student center. In fact, I am working on a multimedia project about the unfavorable conditions present in this area.

I do dine in the student center on occasion, usually at Mondo Subs, and the food is usually good enough. However, the absolute mess that is the student center dining area is extremely disappointing.

Not only are the conditions unsanitary, but I feel sorry for the staff, as they seem to be working very hard with little to no help.

Lines are long, many of the beverage options are often out of service, and trash is absolutely everywhere. Much of the responsibility does rest on the students and I understand that responsibility should be acknowledged, but that does not excuse the lack of care the student center receives from staff.

This semester, I have not witnessed one table being wiped off. I have not seen the trash being emptied or counters being sanitized.

I am not sure how the student center dining services pass health inspections. The conditions of the student center outside the kitchen are incredibly appalling, so it makes me worry about what conditions are like inside the kitchen.

I am prepared to bring these issues to the attention of many, many people. However, I am also very open to your side of the story.

I will be completing my project by next Wednesday, November 14. If you have any comments, please contact me at the email address listed before then.

Regards,

Kylea Copeland

Director of Dining Services Ted Robinson replied within a few hours.

Kylea,

I appreciate your observations about the food service in the Student Center. Let me just say that Chartwells is not responsible for cleaning the dining room. We do clean the tables and empty the trash each afternoon after close. I will address this with the school and see if we can come up with a solution. I can assure you that the kitchen is up to code. We had a Co. health inspection last month and passed easily. We also are inspected by a third party and have always passed with high marks. I realize the lines are long but because you are able to use your meal plan in Mondo’s and C.J.’s the place is popular. The snack bar is small and is over taxed as it is designed. We have as many people working as can function without getting in each others way.  I would love to meet with you to discuss further. Let me know if you have the time.

Thanks again,

Ted Robinson
Director of Dining Services
Chartwells-Northwestern Oklahoma State

I was very pleased with his reply and eagerly agreed to meet with him, however I did not receive a confirmation.

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As a student, I sometimes like to stay on campus for lunch and a study session, or just to visit with friends. I’m not saying the food in the student center is always sub-par, but the conditions need major improvement. I have felt this way for quite some time, but I had never taken the time to really delve in and observe day-to-day operations.

I decided to eat lunch in the student center every day for a week and record my observations.

Monday, November 5: 1:00 PM

  • Mondo Subs was severely understaffed.
  • I attempted to pay for my meal with cash but the station had no change. I was forced to purchase my food with my debit card, which I had been trying to avoid.
  • All main trash receptacles were overflowing with garbage.
  • Every table I could see was dirty.
  • Ice dispensed very slowly from the machine as if the machine were almost empty.

Tuesday, November 6: 12:00 PM

  • Mondo Subs had too many staff members working. They were getting confused and were almost tripping over each other in their small work space at times.
  • Some staff members are [still] unfamiliar with the cash register.
  • The smoke from Coyote Jack’s Grill was filling the vending area. A fellow classmate’s eyes were burning as a result.
  • The drink station grate was piled high with ice.
  • Many soda options were completely or nearly flat.
  • The trash receptacles were again overflowing.
  • Every table I could see was dirty.
  • Lines were very long.

Wednesday, November 7: 12:50 PM

  • Lines were not as long.
  • Every table I could see was dirty.

Thursday, November 8: 12:00 PM

  • Lines were very long. I waited for approximately 20 minutes to order and purchase a sandwich.
  • The staff at Mondo Subs skipped over someone in line.
  • Several drink options were out of service.
  • Trash was scattered all over the floor.
  • Every table I could see was dirty.
  • Someone threw a potato chip carelessly and it shattered on the floor. There was no attempt to clean it up.
  • There was water all over the condiment station.
  • All main trash receptacles were overflowing.

Friday, November 9: 12:40 PM
(I was stuck in a meeting at work and sent my fiancé to purchase our sandwiches and observe before closing)

Here is his experience:

I walked up to the sandwich bar and noticed the grey-haired employee ordering a sandwich so I got in line behind him. The woman put his sanwich in the oven and started to help me. The grey-haired employee walked behind the counter to finish his sandwich while the woman helped me. As I waited to give my next order, I looked down at my phone. I heard the woman say “Stop. Stop it.” I looked up and saw the man picking onions out of the container with his bare hands. I was absolutely disgusted and I started yelling at him. “What the h— are you doing? Stop it!” He flippantly replied, “Oh, I’m only touching the ones I’m going to eat.” He said it as if I was being rude for telling him to stop and he continued to pick onions out [of the container] and put them on his sandwich. I couldn’t help but continue yelling. “Stop! Get the h— out of here!” Meanwhile, the woman next to him was telling him to stop and was trying to push him away from the food. Finally he finished [making] his sandwich and left. After he left, the woman continued working on my sandwich. She repeatedly apologized to me, saying she has to tell him and another woman that works there to wear gloves. I told her that I was not blaming her but if they kept doing that then they should be fired. She said “Well, he is Ted’s assistant.” I was stupefied by the information. I then tried to figure out who the other person is that does not wear gloves but the employee couldn’t give me an exact answer. -Brad Amerin

These documented occurrences represent a typical week of dining in the student center, but there are plenty of other issues worth mentioning.

  • A staff member at Mondo Subs once handled my cash payment with her gloved hand and then proceeded to assemble another sandwich with the same gloved hand.
  • The stations have run out of condiments and toppings, bread, meats, cups and more. I know it is normal for that to happen on occasion, but when it happens frequently or consistently, there is obviously a need for change.
  • For a very long time, the potato chips offered by Mondo Subs were undercooked and soggy or burnt.
  • The student center dining area is consistently messy and dirty. Tables are soiled, trash is scattered and the trash receptacles are almost always overflowing.

Below is a slideshow of assorted photos from various days of observation.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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I usually choose Mondo Subs over Coyote Jack’s. To try to balance my research, I asked a few fellow students who more frequently purchase meals from Coyote Jack’s.

The students I asked have had various negative experiences at Coyote Jack’s such as lack of condiments, but both mentioned the rudeness of the staff at that particular station.

When one station is understaffed, employees sometimes switch back and forth between their regular station and the one in greater need, which is understandable to a point, especially in moderation, but I am still struggling to understand why staffing continues to be a problem this late in the semester.

The lack of staff also contributes to the long lines of students waiting to purchase their meals. I have had to skip meals in the past because of the wait. I have heard many students say they would dine in the student center if the lines were not so long and they didn’t have to risk being late to class.

Long lines are possible at almost any eating establishment, but those students with meal plans rely heavily on their few options for sustenance, so those options might be even scarcer if long lines make dining in the student center next to impossible.

Tuesday, November 13: 12:30 PM

I decided to go to the student center, not to dine, but to observe and photograph any unfavorable conditions I found. In a stroke of luck, I saw Robinson walking through the student center and called out his name. He stopped, and I told him my name and asked if he still wanted to meet with me. He agreed to meet with me around 8:00 or 8:15 AM Wednesday morning.

Wednesday, November 14: 8:00 AM

I arrived in the cafeteria (our agreed upon meeting place) with my fiancé and sat at one of the tables to await Robinson’s arrival. A Chartwells employee checked to see if Robinson was there yet and said she gave word to the kitchen that we were waiting.

To put it simply, Robinson could not be reached for comment despite our interview arrangement.

My fiancé and I left the building at 8:35 AM, explaining to the employee we had spoken to earlier that we had other engagements and had to leave.

************************************************************************************************************

In addition to my own observations and research, I interviewed a few students about their experiences with the dining services in the student center and compiled a video.

************************************************************************************************************

Fellow mass communication student Clay Thomas passed out a short survey to 52 different students in the student center and collected their answers. The questions and answer tallies on the survey are as follows:

How satisfied are you with the Student Center’s Restaurants?
  • [17]Very [21]Some [1]Indifferent [7]Not much [7]Not at all
How friendly is the staff?
  • [15]Very [18]Some [7]Indifferent [10]Not much [2]Not at all
How timely is the staff in preparing the food?
  • [6]Very [19]Some [10]Indifferent [13]Not much [6]Not at all
How well are the ingredients stocked?
  • [11]Very [19]Some [10]Indifferent [7]Not much [5]Not at all
How often do you get exactly what you want?
  • [23]Very [18]Some [7]Indifferent [2]Not much [2]Not at all
Is your overall experience a pleasant one?
  • [16]Very [23]Some [4]Indifferent [5]Not much [4]Not at all

***Allow for margin of error, duplicate answers, etc.

One student that completed the survey actually had more to share about her experiences. I contacted her by email the evening of Tuesday, November 13, and she replied the following day with this response:

I just feel our Student Center and cafeteria has room for improvement. I was not impressed by the  unpreparedness at the beginning of the year. The second day of school they didn’t have enough food for the student body. I feel that is very unnecessary. First off, everyone knows when school will start. It is not a secret and I feel that they did not plan accordingly. I understand that they don’t want to receive food too far ahead but at the same time they have a duty and obligation to feed the student body that is paying quite a bit for their services. Even if they didn’t receive enough food on “the truck” Alva has a Walmart that can fulfill the temporary shortages of food.

The second thing I am slightly concerned about is the sanitary of the workers and the work places. I know just enough about bacteria and the spread of diseases to make me aware of the issues. When a worker uses his/her hands to put raw chicken into the frier or raw hamburger on the grill and uses the same hands without changing  gloves to make my sandwich that is a form of contamination. Under the right conditions there could be an epidemic of salmonella or other food borne illnesses throughout the student body.

Please don’t get me wrong.  I eat at the student center on a regular basis but becoming a D2 school will draw in a larger student body and the food services need to be on top of things. There is always room for improvement  in any area on campus but the food services are always  necessary because students are paying for food. They aren’t always out of food and I’m sure some of the workers do change their gloves, but these are some of the pitfalls that I have noticed. -Josi Hasenauer

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I began this project with the intentions of being as objective as possible. However, throughout my period of observation and research, I have come to the conclusion that the conditions of the student center, namely the dining area, are simply too disturbing to ignore.

To be clear, I provided and willingly presented opportunity for feedback, explanation and the opposing point of view.

I am a concerned student. I refuse to ignore something that affects a great portion of the student body. If you have an opinion, express it. As Northwestern students, we have a responsibility to make our voices heard.

Kylea Copeland

About Ky

I'm Kylea. Or Ky. Or Foxy. Or Hey, You. Or whatever you decide to call me. I'm passionate, creative and weird. I have depression, anxiety and chronic fatigue. I love journalism, the paranormal, makeup, animals, crafts and lots of nerdy and not-so-nerdy things. I'm never bored.

Posted on November 14, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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