Students demand Union changes

Faith Griffin

Over priced, low quality and limited. These three qualities sum up the impression that the Union Market has left on Washburn students.

Students, who want to see a change in the Union, have done more than just talking about the problem the past couple of weeks. They have taken a survey to obtain a consensus of the students that live in the Living Learning Center and have petitioned the Union Market.

Angel Gassmann, junior physical therapist assistant, and Kasey Clark, freshman computer information science and business administration major, have teamed up in hopes to see a change in the Union Market.

They administered a survey asking the students to rate each serving area of the Union. The students were also asked to rate the price, quality and quantity of the food. One hundred and twenty-five surveys were returned and calculated. The basis of the survey was 1 being the worst and 5 being the best. The overall price of the Union food had an average score of 1.4, which was what the students were less satisfied with. Quantity of the food had an average score of 2.7 and the quality of the food had an average score of 2.5. The general appearance of the cafeteria had an average score of 3.6.

“Students have said that the food is cold, not very fresh and really greasy,” said Gassmann

To take steps toward solving the problem, the Washburn Student Government Association hosted an open forum, which was held Wednesday, Oct. 26.

“The open forum went pretty well. We got to express the problems with the Union and it let senate know what was going on,” said Gassmann.

Unfortunately, none of their questions got answered, because Jerry Comstock, the dining services director, was fired that week.

“At the open forum we were basically preaching to the choir,” said Clark.

Students are asking why the union closes at 7 p.m., when it is scheduled to stay open until 9 p.m., what happened to the options from last year such as juices, bottled water, Gatorade, pasta bowls, candy, gum, Pop Tarts and Hostess products, and why they can’t use their meal plan money in the Corner Store, said Gassmann.

These questions have reached the attention of Duke Divine, director of business services of the Memorial Union.

“Any time we can get feeback it’s good. We want to start random samplings and focus groups. Its going to take time for us to make changes, because we don’t have a director right now,” said Divine.

The time that it is going to take for changes to be made in the union is depending on how fast they can get a new food director.

“We understand that we need to be patient. Change is inevitable and time for it will be a topic. We just want the students to be represented unbiasedly and have an organization that is actually doing something and getting it done,” said Clark.

Clark personally turned in 70 surveys from fellow LLC residents.

“It’s funny because now I’m known as the food guy,” said Clark.

The prices of the food have increased since last year. Several students that live in the LLC have the value meal plan which is $2,180 for the year. The money is split into two parts – $1,980 for the Union Market account and $200 for Bod Bucks account, and that is split by semester. Ideally, a student is suppose to spend an average of $7.90 per day, based on a 120-day semester. With the prices so high students are easily spending more than $7.90.

“The prices are high because we are trying to increase the quality of food and by having chefs involved in the food at the union means higher labor cost. If that’s not what the students want, then we need to make some changes,” said Divine.

Gassmann agrees that there needs to be some changes and wants to start making plans toward getting the Union to complement what the students want.

“What needs to happen is that we need to sit down with Duke Divine so that questions can be answered in person,” said Gassmann.

There is also a concern about the lack of quality service in the Union Market.

“A student got their food cold and a worker told them to warm it up in the microwave,” said Gassmann.

According to Clark, the Union also needs to promote healthiness other than the salad bar and also have a selection for vegetarians. While the Main Event has a vegetarian selection on the weekdays, it is not open on the weekends.

“There is no selection for vegetarians. Most of them eat cereal and the salad bar every day,” said Clark.

Many students are concerned with their health and what they consume on a daily basis.

“We need to work toward getting healthier food,” said Daniel Usera, sophomore political science major.

The petition even had the support of food service worker JoAnn Harris, who attended the open forum.

“I’m all for it. Everyone likes variety – so give it to them,” said Harris.

Harris also expresses her concern for the LLC residents.

“Students who stay on campus are limited to what they can eat, especially those who do not have a car. Some kids have night classes, and they should have the chance to get something other than the grill to eat after their class,” said Harris.

“We should give them their money’s worth,” said Harris, “because the Union Market belongs to the students.”