Town hall meeting addresses dining, housing concerns
Rutgers is ranked No. 1 in Food Management magazine, which ranks schools’ food services based on how many students are on campus, said Joseph Charette, executive director of Dining Services at Rutgers. Every other Big Ten school was ranked below Rutgers on this list. Even a few Ivy League schools have visited Rutgers to learn a thing or two from its dining halls, he said.
The Rutgers University Student Assembly sponsored a town hall meeting last night at Trayes Hall in the Douglass Student Center. The meeting addressed student’s concerns about dining, facilities and residence life.
Charette answered questions about the cost of meal plans and discussed how the dining halls have become more environmentally friendly.
The cost of a meal plan is determined by calculating how many meals students consume on average, he said. This number includes the average amount of meals that students miss in their plans.
“If you miss a meal, most likely that meal was never paid for altogether,” Charette said.
Dining Services hesitates to increase the number of guest swipes per student because guest swipes are almost always used, so the overall price of the meal plan would increase.
The elimination of trays in three dining halls has shown nothing but positive results, he said. Although it has not affected the cost of electricity or water, it has reduced the cost of soap.
The lack of trays has reduced waste by at least 30 percent, and Charette said the University saved $131,000 in the first week of school alone.
“For 25 years, I’ve watched people take 25 chicken nuggets and eat ten,” he said.
Another Dining Services-related issue is the thousands of dollars spent on disposable takeout containers, Charette said.
Students have been reluctant to use the “Ozzi” machines that provide reusable takeout containers, he said.
Apart from dining, some housing issues were discussed as well.
Joan Carbone, executive director of Residence Life at Rutgers, addressed concerns about the housing lottery system.
“The thing about the lottery is that you can’t please everyone,” Carbone said.
The idea behind the lottery is that if a sophomore does not get into the highly sought-after Livingston and Easton Avenue Apartments, he or she will have a better chance of getting into them the following year due to seniority privileges, she said.
The disproportionate impact of the lottery on sophomores will be solved by new housing additions, Carbone said.
Last year, about 800 students did not receive on-campus housing, and this year about 800 spaces are opening up, she said.
“As we continue to build, hopefully we will not have to disappoint as many people as we have in the past,” Carbone said.
Antonio Calcado, vice president of University Facilities and Capital Planning, discussed exactly what these new housing projects are and when they are set to be finished.
About 12 to 13 major construction projects are in the works, mainly on the College Avenue campus, Calcado said.
With the help of grants, tax credits and outside funding, the University purchased a large sum of land between Bishop Lane and Seminary Place that had not been a part of Rutgers for the last 200 years, he said.
The new buildings on this land will include an Honors College residence hall and new classroom buildings, Calcado said.
On the corner of Hamilton Street and College Avenue, a residence hall complex with similar amenities to the Livingston Apartments is in the works, he said. This will include retail spaces on the bottom floor, which have yet to be determined.
Other construction projects include a new parking deck on Mine Street and a new chemistry building and engineering building on Busch campus, all of which are slated to finish by 2016.
Seven hundred million of the $1 billion cost of these projects has come from outside funding, Calcado said.
In response to a student’s question about the lack of Wi-Fi in the Livingston Towers, Carbone said the University is working on getting Wi-Fi in every on-campus building by the summer of 2015.
Installing water bottle fill stations in the dormitories is an expensive proposition, but is an initiative that the University has already begun, Calcado said.
In response to a student’s question about whether Rutgers is changing anything in particular to match up with other Big Ten schools, Calcado said the University is already at the forefront in many practices.
“A lot of the best practices are established here and exported to other schools,” Calcado said.