Crossings dining service changes with the times

August 21, 2009 | News, UToday, zBudget-related
By Kim Goodin

In response to fiscally challenging times, UT has made a change in residence dining service at the Crossings.

The change will yield a savings of approximately $400,000, which contributes to a campus-wide effort to balance UT’s budget as state funding has decreased.

The dining hall in the Crossings, one of the least utilized on Main Campus, previously offered an all-you-can-eat format similar to halls in International House, Ottawa House, Parks Tower and South Dining Hall in the Student Union.

A new eaterie, iCrave Pizza at the Crossings, will open Sunday and feature pizza, sandwiches, snacks and cookies daily from 6 p.m. to midnight.

“It became apparent we had to do something after the state’s last budget came out,” said David Wahr, interim director of auxiliary enterprises.

During a town hall meeting earlier this month, President Lloyd Jacobs stated that $8 million must be trimmed from UT’s current budget to offset further funding cuts from the state of Ohio. According to Dr. Kaye Patten Wallace, vice president for student affairs, the $400,000 savings is equivalent to five full-time positions, including salary and benefits.

“Clearly, we were concerned because this change impacts our students,” Patten Wallace said. “In making this decision, we sought students’ feedback through several different methods. We’re really appreciative of the student support and understanding we received as we addressed this issue together.”

UT staff, she said, worked closely with Student Government, met with residence advisers, sent e-mails to members of the Student Dining Committee and the Resident Student Association, and discussed the situation during a “Students Speak” forum in late July.

A posting on UT’s Division of Student Affairs’ Facebook page solicited 30 responses.

“We heard two major themes,” Patten Wallace said. “If we moved from the all-you-can-eat option, there needed to be some type of dining option available at the Crossings. Students also wanted to be able to use their meal swipes.”

Access to meals later in the evening was a frequent request.

“The new venue is available from 6 at night to midnight,” Patten Wallace said. “The former dining hall at the Crossings closed at 8, so this gives students four additional hours to get a good meal.”

Students also were concerned about the seating capacity in the dining hall at Ottawa House.

“Students already thought Ottawa House was crowded around dinner time during the weekends,” Wahr noted. “We’ve added 50 seats to Ottawa’s dining hall and will look for opportunities to add more seating.”

In all, Wahr said seating capacity will increase by about 160.

Students will receive e-mails notifying them of the Crossings conversion. During fall semester, focus groups also will be conducted to gather ongoing feedback.

Patten Wallace added that the change did not eliminate Aramark employee positions or student positions within UT’s dining services.

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