New dining hall system continues to be ‘divisive’

Photo by Nick Lachance

While many students at Wilfrid Laurier University have continued to rally against both the new dining hall’s physical appearance and overall operational system, they have now been joined by upset professors and have come together to express themselves on a Facebook page entitled “Mr. Blouw, tear down this wall.”

The creator of the Facebook page, a fourth-year WLU student who asked The Cord to remain unnamed, was hoping that students would come together and find a productive way to make their concerns heard.

“I feel like there were kind of multitudes of students who were interested in the idea of the wall as an aberration, [and] there was no sort of facilitation of those people,” he stated.

“So I thought if we could set up anything that we could maybe move things along. We have about 300 people who are really adamant about bringing the wall down, which I think is a sizeable amount of students.”

As of now, however, there are no immediate plans of action put in place.

The page is acting more as a rallying point to raise awareness, and if a sizeable amount of students show interest, something will be organized and carried out against Aramark and the Students’ Union in order to bring about change.

“We will try and move forward to get what we want done, but we don’t know what form this is going to take,” he explained.

He also emphasized that he, as well as other group administrators, realize Max Blouw was not directly tied into the decisions regarding the changes to the dining hall.

“The fact that we put Mr. Blouw’s name is not extremely significant, we are more concerned in targeting the administration and letting them know that we’re watching what’s going on, and that we’re not pleased,” he continued.

“In a way we’re asking Mr. Blouw, who is the leader of our institution, to perhaps put some influence into this.”

There was also an initial surprise at the different types of people showing support on the page. While it was created with only WLU students in mind, there are now alumni, past food services workers and professors expressing their feelings via the group.

“We were surprised initially to see these different sorts of people, because we were gearing this towards students who are at the school, [but] we are getting exactly the sort of people we wanted, it’s really the Laurier community,” he said.

And others in the WLU community have started speaking out.

Christopher Ross, a professor in the religion and culture department at WLU, shared his unfortunate experience while attempting to eat in the dining hall with The Cord.
During orientation week he attempted to go into the dining hall, but was rudely escorted out because of a small bag he carried in with him.

“I was in a bit of a state of shock,” he expressed. “I don’t think you’ll get faculty going in there because of practicalities.”

Soon after being told the new rules and regulations of the dining hall, Ross contacted both David McMurray, the vice president of student affairs, and Kelly Ough, the director of residence dining and catering. While Ough did express an apology to Ross, he has yet to hear anything back from her, or the regional director of Aramark, whom she said would also be in contact with him.

While Ross was displeased with his experience in the dining hall, he also expressed negative feelings regarding the new system in general.

“I think it’s really divisive, it divides first years from the upper-level folk, it divides the upper-level folk between those who can afford it and those who can’t,” he explained. “It’s corrosive of community, and makes it a little hallow if the person we’ve contracted out to thinks we’re all potential food-thieves.”

However, the Wilfrid Laurier Student’s Union is maintaining that they are productively working with Aramark in order to ensure that all concerns and complaints regarding the dining hall are dealt with.

As of now, they have set up a Fix My Laurier account for students to voice any comments they may have.

“It’s a text [and email] based program where you can submit your complaints, comments or feedback to the Students’ Union about what [you see] around campus, and we filter those items through,” explained Michael Onabolu, president and CEO of WLUSU.

“So what we’re asking students to do is submit to Fix My Laurier any issues they are finding with the dining hall.”

Onabolu also explained that the dining hall will begin selling some small items at the cash counter, such as sandwiches and small salads, for students to buy, rather than spending the entrance fee for the buffet.

However, he did state that the wall will remain standing in order for the business to run effectively, and that the no-bag rule will also remain in effect.

In terms of the Facebook page, Onabolu expressed positive feelings.

“I think that the Facebook group is a response to change, [and] I think some of the issues students have raised in the group we have worked to address,” he concluded.

“I encourage students to express themselves whenever they are having issues or have concerns, because that’s the way we learn and grow and can make improvement.”

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