In order to evaluate the progress of this year’s Housing and Food Services Committee, it is necessary to review the established mission set by the committee at the beginning of the year.
The mission reads: “The mission of the University of Central Arkansas Student Government Association Housing and Food Services Committee is to strive to implement more convenient, healthy, and quality food services, as well as improve upon correspondence with housing.”
Objectively, our committee has had mixed results throughout the year.
In regards to housing, the committee has improved upon correspondence. The committee not only met with Rick McCollum, VP of Housing & Contract Services, and Stephanie McBrayer, Director of Housing & BearCard, on a semi-regular basis, but also there were regular email correspondences regarding different housing situations throughout the year. The committee provided input on a variety of topics such as priority housing and collecting information to improve the housing experience on campus. Our largest project in relation to housing was hosting the SGA Housing focus group in which Board of Trustees member, Bunny Adcock, was able to join. The focus group produced a lot of valuable feedback that housing seemed willing to use for the future. Though I believe our committee lived up to our mission statement, I do believe there was certainly room for improvement. I would suggest that next year a Senator be placed on the committee that had prior experience with housing, such as an RA, so that the committee will have a better understanding of not only the needs of students, but the processes involved in general. I also would have liked to have met with housing more this past year. The bulk of the committee’s focus was on food services this school year. While I believe that was the right decision to make, I do believe that housing could have still been incorporated even more.
In regards to food services, the committee had a trickier record. Though the committee met with Mr. Nabors often, and he even attended a few General Assemblies this past year, there seemed to be a disconnect or miscommunication at times. There were points within both semesters that the quality of food services seemed worse than usual, including being less convenient and providing less than healthy options. While this change was no one person’s fault, it was challenging for the committee. The committee responded by taking the initiative and organizing a meeting not only with the Aramark representatives, but also with various Vice Presidents and administration. At this meeting, the committee was able to present various areas of concern and was able to further open the lines of communication. Almost immediately after the meeting, the committee began to see a transformation in the way food services was handled on campus. A newer meal exchange plan was finally instituted, the confusion of the meal swipe problems was settled, the cafeteria hours were restored, items were better stocked, and there was more consistency throughout. Another success was reforming the offered meal plans through a resolution in the Senate. It hopefully eliminated confusion for many incoming students. In addition, I feel that our committee has had a great relationship with our fellow Senators and the student body in general. We constantly relayed information and concerns to food services and reported back as promptly as possible. We initiated a successful social media campaign to provide more feedback and buzz in regards to food services. There still is a lot of work to be done with the committee though. The design of the meal exchange plan/choices for the upcoming year has yet to be finalized. Mr. Nabors would like a member of the Executive Board to stay in contact through the summer to continue the conversation. There still needs to be greater variety in regards to the healthy food options, and these options should be included on the meal exchange plan. There needs to be more members from food services involved in the conversation and should be present at SGA meetings.
As a whole, I feel like the committee has accomplished a lot this year. We have done our best to follow our mission and have been persistent in our endeavors even when there were various challenges facing us. My advice for next year’s committee and the new chairman is to remain in regular contact with as many people as possible. The more open the communication, and the more honest, the more that can actually be done. To be patient with progress, but ever persistent. And finally, to always take the time to listen to your fellow Senators and fellow students. Students are more than willing to discuss their opinion about the food and housing on campus as long as you are willing to listen.