Updated: Sep 16, 2022
Sophia Harris/THE GATEPOST
By Sophia Harris
SGA discussed concerns about Dining Services and campus accessibility at its first meeting of the year Sept. 13.
Dara Barros, president, began the open forum addressing the quality of Dining Services’ operations. “It’s been a disappointment in my opinion.” She referenced the recent change to the hours of Sandella’s, Rams’ Den Grille, and Red Barn Coffee Roasters.
She said the reduced hours are an inconvenience for students with limited availability due to work or other commitments in order to get a meal.
Barros said Sandella’s recently announced that it's going to be closed on the weekends, which means “students who work on the weekends and don't have the time to go to the dining hall during normal dining hall hours, which usually closes at 7 p.m. on the weekends” will have limited options. She said it is unfair to students who pay for a meal plan.
She noted that Red Barn closes “six -and-a-half hours earlier” than other dining options on campus and the Grille is not open until “11” a.m.
She expressed her concern for these reduced operating hours and believes students are not getting their money's worth from their meal plans. “If we're spending all this money that's going into dining, I feel as if we should be getting” better quality service.
She said that although Framingham State has provided financial relief on tuition and fees, Sodexo has not provided any meal discounts. “Year after year, the University has frozen our tuition and fees. But Sodexo has not done that, and their quality hasn't really improved.”
She added, “With the amount of money that I spent on dining, I could buy my own groceries and make my own food and it would be nutritious and more beneficial for me.”
Concerning the Kiwibots, Barros said there is no option through the Everyday app, which is the platform for students to order meal delivery, to add dining dollars to use them.
Kiwibots are food delivery robots, which are a part of a new program implemented by Dining Services.
Barros said if students want to mobile order for pickup or delivery, they will “have to use [their] own money even though [they] already paid for [dining dollars].”
She added, “I personally don't think that it was necessary for this University of hills to have robots on our campus to be delivering food.”
Barros said Sodexo does not have the correct priorities in what students at FSU need. She referenced the lack of enough “gluten-free and allergy-free options” that have been brought to Dining Service’s attention in the past, and said she has not seen improvements.
She added, “It's honestly just disappointing for me - for them to get robots to deliver food, but not improve our quality of food.”
McKenzie Ward, student trustee, added, “Seventeen out of over 3,000 students have subscribed” to the Kiwibot service and Framingham state is the leading school in the number of subscriptions.
Erin Gemme, diversity and inclusion officer, said a benefit of the Kiwibots is for students with disabilities or health concerns to be able to get their meal delivered to their building.
They added if this is the case, students who need the service “shouldn't be charged as much” as they are using it for a valid reason, including injury, an existing condition, or a disability.
Senator Dillon Riley said he is concerned about the traffic safety violations the Kiwibots could potentially cause and what that liability means for Framingham State.
Ward addressed accessibility concerns on campus.
She said the issues that were raised at the last campus safety walk such as the curb that is not handicap accessible, located in front of West Hall, the parking space that is located in front of the curb cut and the lack of direction in Maynard Lot, have not been addressed. She added it is “ridiculous that after six months, nothing has been changed.”
She said it is not only a problem of accessibility, but also of inclusivity.
Ward said Framingham State “constantly talks about how we are an inclusive campus, but we are not being inclusive.” She said she is “concerned” with the “lack of follow through” from administrators not addressing these issues.
She added, “The number-one priority of FSU should be the students, and I don't feel like sometimes that is the number-one priority of every single person on this campus.”
Senator Serina Broderick said a problem with accessibility on campus that she has noticed since sustaining an injury that caused the use of crutches is that the handicap accessibility door opening mechanism in Miles Bibb is not working.
She said, “We're not making this a friendly, open campus for people who have disabilities.”
Barros advocated for the continued efforts to create a gender-inclusive bathroom on the second floor of the McCarthy Center as well as changing tables in bathrooms.
Gemme said they are working on creating an Accessibility Committee to work through these concerns. They invited any students who want to join to reach out to them.
Riley, Austin Van Lingen, Evelyn Campbell, and Gemme were sworn in to their positions as senator, senator, outreach and events coordinator, and diversity and inclusion officer, respectively, for Academic Year 2022-23.
Barros also invited students to attend the Black Student Union’s Kickback, which is on Sept. 17.
Sara Gallegos, executive director of student experience and careers and SGA advisor, added there is “a new incentive” to place posters in the entrance of McCarthy highlighting the home games for the upcoming week.
The “U-Rock” was presented to Barros from Campbell for helping her step into her role as outreach and events coordinator.