Comments are often made by word of mouth or through social media complaining about a low quality of food at ONU. There are students at ONU who dislike the available dining options, but their numbers, complaints and suggestions have not been given to those who can implement the changes. These ideas have spilled out into the public domain and have resulted in ONU’s dining services being rated low in comparison to its high academic achievement.
Princeton Review Ranks ONU Food #1 Worst
Ohio Northern Dining Services was ranked #1 on the Princeton Review’s list of worst college food.
In the Princeton Review’s publication The Best 380 Colleges: 2016 Edition ONU was ranked at the top of the list titled, “Is it food?” which rated the most disliked of college dining programs. ONU was followed by institutions such as Drew University and Hampden-Sydney College.
ONU has been on this list for four consecutive years beginning at #5 moving down to #12 then #13 but reaching #1 this year.
This ranking and all the others offered by the Princeton Review are attained through an online student survey. Students answered the question, “How do you rate your on-campus food?” on a “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree” scale.
Students do not have to interact with anyone other than website to voice their opinion. But they can only broadly categorize their feelings on the food at ONU.
The information for each publication of Best Colleges is collected over a three year period. But the survey focuses on all aspects of a college including but not limited to food including student housing, professors, etc. The survey is available year round to students via the Princeton Review’s website.
David Soto of the Princeton Review is a co-author and the director of content for the website. Soto stated, “Responses do come in organically without our prompting, although we do work with the administration to distribute an email to the entire student body encouraging them to take the survey telling us about their experiences on campus.”
To take the survey, participants must enter information to validate their results. An academic email address ending in “edu” is request but personal emails can be used. A name and date of birth is also required. This information is sent to a third party which verifies that participants are enrolled in the university.
Students can only response per academic year to the survey to prevent any stuffing of the ballot box.
The Dining Services at ONU were given no explanation of the ranking, where it had come from and had no information to put towards improving their services.
Dining Services at ONU
Sodexo Quality of life services at ONU are attempting to work with students to improve the dining program.
Student opinion of dining services has been expressed through indirect forms of communication. The social media service, Yik Yak, for the ONU area often has posts making broad complaints about the food or cleanliness of the dining hall.
The entirety of dining services at ONU are contracted by Sodexo. Sodexo is a multinational several billion dollar company headquartered in France with a division for the United States.
Terri Mathis acts as the general manager of dining services at ONU alongside Findlay based Head Chef Tim. Terri has worked at ONU for 7 years and Chef Tim began working at ONU in the beginning of the fall semester.
Terri reported a lack of direct comments and suggestions from students, “The students want to complain, but they don’t want to get behind it. Bring us the complaints.”
Less than a month into his position, Head Chef Timothy has already addressed several complaints regarding the food prepared. For example, Under Chef Timothy an expanded hummus bar with fresh made salsas and dips has been implemented.
Students can give their input on their dining experience directly through several channels. Comment cards are often placed on the front counter that can be filled out and turned in right at the front office. ONU Dining Services has both a Facebook and a Twitter account where students can voice their opinions on what they liked or didn’t like about something they had at the dining hall.
Terri and the other managers of Dining Services have an open door policy. Any one at any time can speak with the managers or chef about their dining concerns.
The most direct mode available to students for giving suggestions for dining services is the Student Senate Dining Services Committee.
Dining Services Committee
The ONU Dining Services Committee connects students directly to the management of the Sodexo contracted dining services.
Third year pharmacy student, Stephanie Mavrodin, heads the committee as the Secretary of Dining Services from Student Senate. This committee also consists of Dr. Adrianne Thompson-Bradshaw, Terri Mathis, Chef Tim, and group of Senate Housing Representatives that alternate each meeting.
This committee is a division under Student Senate, which bridges the gap between students and administrators at ONU. Student Senate attempts to shape certain areas at ONU to meet student needs, such as dining.
Stephanie explained the problem’s her committee attempts to resolve, “It’s not so much an issue of the options, it’s an issue of the quality and it is an issue of negligence.”
This committee compiles and examines the student complaints towards the dining services.
The main vehicles for complaints to be given for this committee is either verbally by coming to the meetings or through Student Senate’s online form for student input.
This online form titled, “Spend a Second with Senate” allows students to voice their opinions directly to Student Senate. Students can give their ideas on anything regarding student life on campus including dining services. The survey form is anonymous and students are given the option to receive feedback on their input.
“Spend a Second with Senate” can be accessed at any time for students to offer their input.
The Dining Services Committee meets every Wednesday at 5pm in the on the second floor of the McIntosh center. In these meetings the representatives from Student Senate work directly with dining services personnel.
In October, several significant student concerns have been brought to light and acted on through the committee. Terri and Chef Tim have addressed student complaints regarding the general availability of options in the dining hall.
The periodic closing of meal stations at the dining hall during normal days is slated to be ceased with all lines always being open.
Complaints about the mundane nature of dishes available at the vegetarian line. But Terri and Chef Tim want to work with vegetarian and vegan students to meet their specific dietary needs and desires.
Chef Tim has the skills and resources to prepare dishes for foreign students, those with dietary conditions, and regular students. Students can suggest specific dishes with or without a recipe in mind for the chef to try making for them.
Through this committee Dining Services can communicate with students and respond to specific problems.
Changes that came directly from this committee include the inclusion of grilled chicken on the list of meal swipe available meals at White Bear Inn. A rice cooker will also be added in the dining hall to keep rice dishes fresher for students.
Dining Services at ONU are working with the student voice on campus, Student Senate, to improve the quality of dining for students. Students must communicate with Dining Services in some form with specific ideas for changes to be made whether it be through the internet, social media, or face to face with Dining Services Staff.
With the informal atmosphere of the Dining Services staff and the Dining Services Committee, students have easily accessible channels to provide Dining Services with constructive criticism. Students pay for quality education, housing, and dining at ONU and have the opportunity to influence how the institution can best cater to them.