By Adam Hoeg
For years, Fitchburg State students have voiced their concerns in numerous ways about their dissatisfaction regarding the current dining hall hours, 7 a.m.-7 p.m. After years of complaints, Chartwells at Fitchburg State is finally trying something new, an hour-long extension of the dinner meal time. “The students requested it, so we are going to try it out” said Phil Bowers, Director of Chartwells for Fitchburg State University.
“It stinks paying for a meal plan that you cannot use past 7 p.m. Growing up, dinner at my house was always between 7:30 and 8:00 at night. This was usually due to my parents’ work schedules and my dance schedules. It was really hard coming to Fitchburg and trying to adjust to an early dinner time, especially when most nights of the week I am not free until after 7 at night, when the dining hall has closed,” said Stephanie Lord, a senior at Fitchburg State.
The Holmes dining hall at Fitchburg State (colloquially known as Daka) has been operated by Chartwells for more than 30 years. For as long as officials can remember, the building has opened at 7 a.m. and closed at 7 p.m., Monday through Thursday. This has since been seen as a problem here on campus.
Jeremy Kenndey, a senior at Fitchburg State said,“It’s not the end of the world, but most schools that I looked at that were similar to Fitchburg State had at least one actual full service dining hall on campus that was open till at least 8 pm. It is supposed to close at 7, but if you come after 6:15-6:30, there is usually no food left, and they have started to clean up and put everything away. You really have to come between 4-6, and that is not a lot of time for 1600 students to come in and out for dinner.”
Explains Bowers, “Costs associated with an extension of hours has prevented us from extending [them] in the past, but my job is to cater to students requests, and that’s what this trial run is all about. We have a certain amount of food allotted for each night, and sometimes more students eat than usual, or the same amount of students eat significantly more, this causes us to run out for the night.”
Students of Fitchburg State have also expressed great concern on the space available for eating as well. “Extending the hours would definitely help with the space issue as well. If you come between 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., there is almost nowhere to sit if you have a group bigger than 2 or 3. We know the dining hall is old, and there is limited space, but there have been times when there is literally no room for more than one person to sit down at a given location, then you have to stand around and wait for people to get up and leave,” complains one student.
Bowers answered, “We are assuming that the extension may relieve some of the seating constraints, and issues regarding lines. However, the students eat when they want to eat, and worldwide that is around 5:00-6:15pm. The facility is a generous size, given how many students, faculty and staff use it. We cannot expand if it is not truly needed.”
“I think it’s more convenient because giving us an extra hour may not seem like a lot, but it will make a difference. A lot of students here work on campus, and those shifts for at least the Rec Center staff members go from 3:30-7 p.m., and we essentially cannot eat when we get out of work,” said Kayla Porter, a sophomore at Fitchburg State.
“Students are not happy paying for a meal plan they cannot use, however, based on what they are paying, the operating hours are reasonable. With the extension of the hall hours, will come a price increase,” warns Bowers.
The Fitchburg State Holmes Dining Commons serves a resident student population of 1600 daily, plus roughly an additional 150 faculty, staff and commuter students who pay per entry into the hall. The one-hour extension in service Monday-Thursday will prove to be a phenomenal improvement. However, it is assumed to raise questions as to the weekend hours, which has the hall closing at 6:30pm.
“At this time, we have no plans to consider extending hours Friday-Sunday. The reason for the weekday extension is simply because that is when everyone that we need to feed is here on campus,” said Bowers. If this trial extension is a success, we can expect to see some more changes.