Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Mailbag: 'Food Fight!' Edition

We’re cleaning up from a food fight over the weekend in our comments section over college dorms and dining halls, and we’re featuring some of the best comments from the weekend in this week’s Mailbag.

An Indiana University trustee’s concern that a $22 million dining hall might be part of an “amenities race” that’s ultimately unfeasible to the school struck the wrong chord with commenter ‘College Student’:

“Where does it end, the private room? The tile shower? The sushi?” [trustee William Cast asked in the Thursday meeting]

Wow, what a moronic boob… Building a new dorm isn’t some kind of “luxury” when so many students live in them. Don’t forget that students are the customers of private universities; they should get the experience that they pay for.

To which ‘Jose’ replied:

Yes, students should get what they pay for but how much should they pay? Students and families complain about the rapidly increasing cost of both public and private education but they fail to realize that they are driving up those costs — for multiple options in the dining halls, fancy recreation centers with climbing walls and spa type services, student centers, dorm rooms that are nicer than hotels. These things come at a price and schools offer them because they feel they need to compete for students who like the flashy new stuff, but they have to increase the costs of attendance in order to offer such options. Let’s remember that when we hammer administrators for raising the price of tuition, fees, residence halls and food contracts.

But is the point not the cost of the facility, but the quality of the food? As Susan Maloney put it:

Isn’t it interesting that we can serve chicken nuggets, chocolate milk, and tater tots to our elementary school children and not think twice about it… even blasphemously try to promote it as ‘healthy’ because milk has some calcium in it! However, when we move to our right thinking college aged children and put money into their dining and residence experiences with the rare inclusion of organic foods, healthy food options, and my favorite part yet, an emphasis on allergen friendly food choices… we balk that we have become too fancy and luxurious?

And ‘Brian’ too:

In this backward economy, wholesome food costs more than mass-produced food that’s not as healthy. People say college dining is “fancy” simply because it costs more all of a sudden, while that cost increase actually comes from a movement toward higher-quality, locally- and often organically-grown foods.

I asked several commenters who left notes along these lines — valuing the quality of the food above all else — if $22 million facilities were necessary for schools to serve locally-grown produce or organic meats. Or is a quality facility key to getting students in the door to eat healthy in college? ‘JJFoshay’ answered my comments section question this way:

At UConn, which I graduated from a couple of years ago, expansive choices in the newest and most popular dining hall meant stations that were dedicated nightly to pizza, burgers/hot dogs, and the most popular – “comfort food” – featuring mashed potatoes and gravy every night alongside things like fried chicken and refined baked pasta dishes. The second newest and most popular dining hall on campus replicated this pattern. The salad area was nothing more than a small cart with iceberg lettuce and a non-variety of other toppings. Don’t make the assumption that large universities attempting mass-appeal are providing a healthier experience to the audience they’re trying to woo – sometimes it’s just a larger wall of cereal.

Do you agree with his response? Keep your comments coming!

(By the way, for future reference: Here’s our comments policy. Nobody ran afoul of it, just throwing it out there!)

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