Arts and Entertainment Editor
Students are in for treat.
University administration and Troy Dining Services have announced new meal plans and accommodations starting fall 2017.
Students have previously voiced complaints to Dining Services, including dissatisfaction with the inflexibility of meal plans and frustration with the organization’s current operating status.
“What I have heard is … as we’re growing, the lines are just taking forever,” said Max Herman, a senior hospitality major from Panama City, Florida, and chairman of the Food Advisory Council of Troy (FACT). “That’s been a big thing that even I’ve noticed.”
Ibrahim Yildirim, general manager of Sodexo, said Troy Dining Services is making strides to combat long lines, specifically in the Trojan Center dining area.
This semester, Troy Dining Services has re-organized lines both in the dining hall and Trojan Center and added an additional register at Einstein’s to help reduce wait times.
During busy rush lunch hours, especially on popular days such as Wednesdays (when fried chicken is served), two main lines have been added in Trojan Dining Hall to provide a quicker flow.
Herman also cited the discretion of food prices at Herb’s Place, slow service and discourteous employees as points of concern.
Students have also voiced concern over Herb’s low stock of popular items.
“. . . usually some goods get stocked up, but at the end of the rounds, the store can be barren,” said David Reeder, a sophomore information systems major from Slapout. “There’s Junior Mint boxes near the door stuck to the aisle, partially open and sticky.”
Troy Dining Services is working closely with students, asking them to complete surveys about what they would like to see changed or provide areas of improvement, according to Yildirim.
Yildirim said he and his team work closely with FACT, a student-run organization purposed to offer suggestions, feedback and solutions to problems to help the dining staff better accommodate students.
Student responses from surveys and FACT have been used to make adjustments to the dining options offered. However, these projects take time.
Yildirim said the Trojan Center dining area needs restructuring to add more seating, but that no specific plans have been finalized.
According to James Bookout, senior vice chancellor for finance and business affairs, Chick-fil-A will be restructured to a full-service dining option. Two additional registers will be added to the Chick-fil-A area to “increase POS,” or point of sale, according to Yildirim.
Bookout said future plans also include the expansion of Einstein’s, and that “a number of options are being considered” to possibly replace A&W.
Students have been taking note of dining improvements.
Jenna Viets, sophomore communication major from Dothan, said she appreciates the community vibe of the dining hall.
“More so than last semester, it seems like there’s always at least something good to eat,” Viets said. “I like the atmosphere — how it brings people together and leads to so many conversations.”
Currently, Troy offers four meal plan options: Cart blanche allows students to eat an unlimited amount of times in the dining hall with 25 Flex dollars at other retail locations, 14 meals a week with 350 flex points, 9 meals per week with 500 flex dollars and 75 block plan with 650 flex dollars.
A meal swipe in the dining hall is equivalent to $6 for breakfast, $9 for lunch and $11 for dinner, according to Yildirim. According to Troy’s website, “one flex point is equivalent to $1.”
Sabrina Foster, coordinator of housing and residence life, said a main point of anxiety from students’ parents is the cost of standard meal plans — $1,744 per semester including tax.
These meal plans total more than traditional housing, which is $1,520 per semester. Foster said she would like to see more flexible meal plans.
As of Aug. 31, approximately 2,300 students that reside on and off campus are enrolled in standard meal plans, according to Foster.
Foster said the most popular meal plan option is 75 block plan with 650 flex dollars.
Students who live on campus are required to purchase a meal plan, unless they live in a fraternity or sorority house, Paden Hall, Hillcrest Hall or Honors Cottage.
Approximately 6,000 students have commuter meal plans that cost $299 per semester, according to Bookout.
Those who live off campus or in Greek housing and are enrolled in at least nine credit hours must purchase a commuter plan.
According to Foster, the only way to opt out of a commuter plan is if one adequately validates that he or she has an off-campus internship.
“Commuters definitely need more flex points,” said Brittany Rife, a sophomore social work major from Brewton. “I’m trying to use mine sparingly but it’s so difficult with how expensive everything is in relation to the amount of flex points we get. Getting a few saga swipes would really help things!”
Bookout told the Tropolitan options are still being considered for meal plans, but that they will range in price between the current commuter plan and standard meal plan.
“We don’t look to model any plans on other campuses,” Bookout said.
According to their websites, The University of Alabama, Auburn University and the University of South Alabama utilize the rollover method, which allows unused points or dollars from meal plans to roll over to the next semester of each academic year.
“Flex points should roll over,” said an anonymous Troy student. “We pay a lot of money for our meal plans and we shouldn’t be ‘punished’ with them taken away if we don’t use them all.”
According to Troy’s website, “Please be advised that flex dollars do not carry over to the next semester, students must use them each semester.”
If Troy were to have a rollover policy, the price of student meal plans would increase, according to Bookout.
Troy Dining Services depends on the margin of swipes and points that go unused to support a wide range of services provided, according to Bookout.
“There isn’t a need for additional locations,” Bookout said. “Extending hours has been considered.
“As a freshman in Freshman Forum last year, I conducted a survey asking what they greatest need on campus was on campus in their opinion and the result was a desire for later Trojan Dining hours,” said Blakelee Clack, a sophomore exercise science major from Dothan. “The administration has been very kind, respectful and has explained that they are doing their best to bring change that students need and desire, but there are so many logistics that we don’t understand or see as students.”
Bookout spoke on the possibility of additional shifts.
“Surveys indicate only a very small number of students would use the facility during extended hours,” Bookout said. “The cost to add additional shifts would cause meal plan prices to increase for all students when only a few students would take advantage of extended hours.”
In an interview with the Troy Messenger in 2010, former Board of Trustees President Doug Hawkins said “the two things students complain about most are the parking and the food.”
The late board member made the above statement the day after Troy broke ground on Trojan Dining Hall, which replaced Stewart Dining Hall.
The Trojan Dining Hall project was initially estimated to cost around $11 million, but according to the same Troy Messenger article, ended up costing $13 million, according to Bookout.
“All funds received by the university from meal plans are used for debt service to pay for the dining facility and other student service costs,” Bookout said.
According to Troy’s website, in the fall of 2010, the university’s total enrollment of students for on-campus classes was 7,768. This number is 98 students shy of 2016’s fall enrollment.