By Amber Lovell

Fall 2017 brought a lot of new changes for the student body at Ripon College, one of those changes being in the dining services that are offered. The Commons was said to undergo drastic change and what was once The Pub is now The Spot, which features a restaurant-style, made-to-order arrangement. These are now the college’s main go-to places to eat, and the student body has very diverse opinions about these dining options. All the while, Sodexo is continuing to make changes in hopes to address the various desires of students. These desires can be contradictory at times, as many students are on different meal plans which warrant different changes.

Jessica Joanis, the assistant dean of students, provided the following breakdown of students’ meal plans: 31% of students are on the All Access meal plan, 24% of students are on the Block 220 meal plan, 20% of students are on the Block 150 meal plan and 25% of students are on the Block 90 meal plan.

Many upperclassmen had difficulty trying to decide on a meal plan because it was such a change from the previous years. According to Joanis’ records, there were 791 entries of meal plan changes that occurred from summer up until the final deadline. From the opening of The Spot Aug. 28 until the final deadline to change one’s meal plan Sept. 5, 240 students had changed their meal plan, 47% of which changed to the Block 90 plan.

One of the main concerns of students and faculty is that students who are on the Block 90 plan are not correctly budgeting their points and meals. On average, students who are on the 90 Block meal plan should be eating six meals a week at The Commons and spending about $66 a week at the other dining options. For a student who eats seven days a week, they should be spending about $9.00 a day of their points. With an average meal at The Spot ranging from $7-$9, a student should typically only be having one meal at The Spot per day. As of Sept. 26, students on the Block 90 plan should have $714.32 remaining in order to make their points last the rest of the semester.

Overall, the students on campus have conflicting thoughts about the dining services Ripon College is offering. In a survey that went out to the student body, students were asked, “What has been your experience with The Commons on campus this semester?” Out of 83 responses to the survey, only five students described The Commons as a place they enjoy eating at. While there were a handful of students who think of The Commons as either a hit or a miss depending on the day, most of the responses were negative. Some of the most common criticisms were about the lack of variety, low quality of food and an overwhelming selection of unhealthy options with few healthy alternatives.

Delou Wilson (Class of 2018) reviewed the Commons as “disappointing”. Though once in awhile he sees what he would describe as decent food, he feels that the quality has drastically decreased since last school year.

Libby Swenson (Class of 2018) feels that “the Commons food has gotten worse this year; there are almost no options anymore. The vegetarian section is the same for the whole week and even when it does change, it barely changes.”

Dietary needs have also been a concern for many students. Students with allergies and dietary needs find themselves constantly questioning the food that is available to them at both the Commons and The Spot. Lindsey Karras (Class of 2020) noted that she has had difficulty finding foods she can eat while on a gluten-free diet. She said that she has found that much of the food at the Commons has been mislabeled, which creates a risky situation for many students on campus.

These concerns have not fallen on deaf ears. Solon Pietila, the executive chef, stated that “the Commons is my current focus as far as culinary training goes. As we move forward one can expect better food and service than we have seen in the past. We are working on ways to extend allergen options and availability.” Pietila expects the menu to continue to change throughout the semester as an attempt to get a baseline for what students prefer. Menus are changing to ensure there are fewer occurrences of having the same entre on multiple lines at the same time.

The Spot, on the other hand, has received a much better review from the student body. Most students stated that they enjoy the quality of the food that they receive, but wish that food could come out faster so that eating meals could fit into their schedule better.

Many students have time-crunched schedules that do not allow for them to sit down in the Commons nor wait around 30 minutes for their food to be ready at The Spot. These students find that they are paying for a meal plan that they cannot use as much as they would like to. Jimmy Ballistari (Class of 2019) described his experience at The Spot in comparison to what was once The Pub as “asinine.” The wait time does not allow for him to go and do what he needs to do academically, and he would much rather not pay for a meal plan at all and instead put that money towards groceries so that he could prepare his own meals.

Mackenzie Swart (Class of 2020) said she has enjoyed what The Spot has to offer, stating that it is a “step up” from The Pub in its overall food quality.

From the student survey, most responses regarding The Spot were positive regarding the quality of the food. While most students appear to enjoy The Spot as a frequent dining option, many students also wish that the menu had more to offer. Pietila stated that The Spot will soon provide “Limited Time Offers” and switch out some of the menu’s least popular items to options they believe will be more attractive to the student body.