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UGBC Hosts Discussion On Dining Issues

Dining Services Admins Explain Changes To System

Heights Staff

Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

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Chrissy Suchy / For The Heights

On Tuesday, UGBC hosted a panel of Boston College dining officials to answer questions about the changes made to BC Dining Services (BCDS) for the 2012-2013 school year. The event, titled “It’s Grill Time: State of the Heights with BC Dining,” took place at 6 p.m. in the Murray Function Room. The goal of the event was to create an event through which students could raise their questions and concerns, thereby helping BC officials to make more student-friendly policies. Last year, a similar panel on concerts helped bring back a fall concert for this year.

The event began with a presentation by Helen Wechsler, director of BCDS, who enumerated the features of BCDS that make it distinct, before explaining why this year’s changes were necessary.

Notably, according to Wechsler, BCDS is one of only three self-sustaining dining operations in the greater Boston area. Self-sustaining means that BCDS is funded entirely by money spent directly by students on their meal plans. No funding comes from tuition dollars and BCDS must pay rent expenses to BC for the space used in each of the dining halls.

“We work to be part of the BC mission, by serving the community as well as the student body,” Wechsler said. To that end, BCDS employs over 250 full-time employees to whom it pays more than a fair living wage, guarantees a full work week, and grants health benefits. Not only that, but BCDS holds at least one drive per year through which it donates large amounts of food directly to the Boston Food Bank.

Wechsler also discussed the factors that necessitated a change in the dining plan. “We were facing rising food costs, a need for upgrades, as well as trying to contain the mandatory board rate,” Wechsler said. BCDS was attempting to face those challenges while still maintaining a high quality selection of a food choices as well as the distinctive commitment to social justice. Efforts had been made in the past to limit cost without making drastic changes, through methods such as reduced management labor, contained operating expenses, and negotiating competitive food purchasing bids. Despite these efforts, by this year the costs were rising to the point that fundamental changes needed to be made in order to preserve the core elements of BCDS, Wechsler said.

The changes included the addition of three mini-marts, a modified a la carte program, and the decision to no longer accept mandatory dining dollars at Hillside Cafe. According to Wechsler, all three choices stemmed rising costs, but the change regarding Hillside has particularly prompted negative outcries.

“Hillside Cafe was only ever meant to serve 1,200 people per day, and it was serving over 4,000 daily until this year,” Wechsler said. “It was untenable and unsafe in the back.”

By switching many of the products previously offered in the dining halls to the mini-marts, which are operated by a separate retailer, both BCDS and students are able to get a lower price on the products offered there.

“We try to ensure that there is enough money for a student to eat a balanced, nutritional, and well-rounded diet throughout the year,” Wechsler said.

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