While there are people back on campus and all seems to be going well, there is an underlying issue to yet be addressed on campus: the dining.
Campus dining has gone more and more downhill as time has progressed throughout the past few years. There are many issues that have only gotten worse because of the poor way that dining is being handled. That fact is especially evident this year.
While it is understood that the dining halls are understaffed and that the dining staff is trying to work with students, the problem has been magnified by the way IUP has treated the issue.
To start, the only regularly open dining hall is North Dining Hall. While this may not seem to be a huge issue on its own, there are several problems with the hall itself.
The options at North are lacking to say the least. There are the more constant and regular food options like burgers and pizza, but there is little to no variation between them. Sure, there are other options, but they are not interesting or unique at all. This lack of innovation could be remedied if other halls were open, but that is not the case.
Foster Hall, which had been closed for some time, was officially demolished recently. It may not have been open for a while, but it would still provide another dining option for students on campus. More options equal better dining, and it seems that IUP has decided to make interesting dining harder to come by.
Along with the fall of Foster Hall, there was Folger Dining Hall. Folger and North have been the two main dining halls for a while, with the two working together to handle the wide range of students. That is, until the past couple years when Folger was closed and then repurposed for the new Folger: After Dark.
While the after dark aspect is a great idea because it helps students who were too busy during the day to go to North or the Hadley Union Building (HUB), there is the issue that is the most confusing aspect of its existence. If Folger: After Dark can exist, why can Folger itself not be open regularly?
The reason that this becomes an issue is because of the lunch and dinner rush that occurs at North. Every day, you will likely see a line of students coming out of North waiting to enter the building to get food. This is a problem.
For example, if a student is on a tight schedule, there would be an issue because they would not have the time required to get in the building in time, much less eat a meal. With all of that in mind, there are even more concerns to unpack.
The issue that comes to mind is the problem with meal swipes and the need to have Flex. Recently, meal swipes have been causing issues for many students all across campus with some not appearing as they should or not counting at dining halls. If a student is just trying to use their meal swipes as they normally would, there is a possibility that they might not be able to get food just because the dining is so messed up that the swipes they pay for are not working as they should.
As was mentioned prior, the need for Flex is another issue. IUP practically begs students to add Flex dollars to their meal plan. Without Flex, there are many normal dining options that they simply cannot access. Places like Chick-Fil-A and Einstein’s in the HUB are not optimized for the use of meal swipes, with Grille Works and Revolve offering options that are a little odd and not as comprehensive as the options that are available with Flex.
Considering that, there is also the Crimson Café predicament. Apart from being rather overpriced at some places, it only accepts Flex. There is no real alternative for people that just could not afford to spend the extra money to get Flex. What happens to them if the only dining hall is closed and Folger: After Dark does not accept the meal swipe for whatever reason that may be. It is a real issue and the fact that the university has not addressed it is troubling to say the least.
The use of Grubhub is yet another concerning point with the campus dining that needs work. Last year, Grubhub became widely used as it was ideal in a more contactless setting, which was how the world had to operate at the time. Now, there is less of an emphasis on contactless activities, but, at places like the HUB, Grubhub is still being supported. This does not work at all.
Someone who orders through the app and someone who orders in person both have to deal with incredibly long wait times, occasionally hitting upwards of 40 minutes just for food from Revolve. It is a completely unnecessary wait, but it is caused because there is an attempt to continue supporting Grubhub.
Now, should it be removed completely? The answer there is no. It is convenient and good for those in a rush, but it could definitely be done better and used in a smarter way. It is clear that it was attempted to be removed all together in favor of in-person ordering, only to then be kept in place for a reason that seems incredibly unclear and nonsensical.
With all of that in mind, be sure you know when to get food to try to combat the rush hours. It may be tricky to nail down at first, but it can be figured out with time.
Go out, be safe when doing so and enjoy what you can through campus dining. It is far from the best, but it is all that we as IUP students have. So, we have to take what we can get and roll with that. Good luck out there, everyone.