Editor’s note: This is the first article in a series evaluating the work each of the Student Senate committees have done over the past year.
The current chair of the Senate Dining Service Committee, senior Sam Harrison, was not even aware the committee existed up until the end of last year. The discovery, and three years of experience working for Dining Services, caused him to run for and be elected as chair.
It also led Harrison to set a goal of making students more aware that the committee existed. After a year as chair, Harrison remains uncertain as to the level of improvement.
“I don’t know how successful we’ve been at that,” he said. “The sad truth I think is that a lot of people just don’t care about Senate, much less random Senate committees.”
Despite a lack of publicity, Harrison was able to successfully utilize the committee in other ways. The Hard Knox Café now serves a different type of soy sauce, students can now have their subs toasted in the Gizmo and next year’s dinner menu will feature a smoothie bar.
“We’ve done quite a bit,” said junior Karl Bair, a member of the committee. “We’re a pretty creative group this year. There were a lot of ideas to be talked about every week.”
According to Harrison, the committee’s power is mainly that of suggestion. The group brainstorms ideas and investigate what students would like from Dining Services. At that point, they start talking with Director of Dining Services Helmut Mayer, who may try to implement ideas if resources allow.
“Whatever ideas they have, we discuss and then I look for feasibility,” Mayer said. “It’s usually an exchange of ideas.”
“Most of what we do is just discussions, compromise, persuasive powers,” Bair said.
The committee draws its ideas from a variety of sources. In addition to reading the student comment cards to make sure nothing was overlooked, they have occasionally sent out surveys, the most notable one assessing whether or not students would like a smoothie bar to replace one night of stir fry in the Hard Knox Café.
Harrison also noted that students are free at any time to charge the committee with looking into any area they are unsatisfied with or have questions about. He also actively solicited student opinions himself, which resulted in the ultimate change of soy sauce brands.
One of the biggest changes Harrison made was to bring non-voting student representatives onto the committee. Student workers in the Gizmo, C-Store or cafeteria were able to provide the committee with more details as to the inner workings of those areas on campus.
Overall, however, the influence of the Dining Services Committee was seen most directly on the actual variety of food choice. Mayer felt the committee’s work was on par with previous years.
“Every committee is pretty much even over the years,” Mayer said. “Maybe half of their ideas got put into action and half not.”
“When you’re got the representatives of the students saying, this is what the students want, this really needs to happen, it’s powerful,” Bair said.