FDU Food Services: Separate and Unequal

By Theresa King
Managing Editor

(TEANECK) – Although Metro students pay the same as Florham students for each of the three available unlimited meal plans from Gourmet Dining, they have far fewer choices and fewer hours of operation in which to enjoy them – even though they outnumber the students at Florham by more than two to one.

Metro students have three dining outlets: The dining hall, Jeeper’s Café and the Dickinson Café. Madison students have five: The dining hall, The Florham Perk Coffee House, Leafs & Grains, The Grill and Snax. Yet according to statistics on the FDU website for Fall 2016, Metro has more than twice as many students as Florham, 8,149 to 3,363, respectively.

Some students are not pleased.

“Personally, I think it’s ridiculous that our campus, the campus that brings in most of the revenue, has such a pitiful selection of dining options,” said David Benson, Metro junior computer science major.

But dining options don’t seem to be an issue on the Florham campus.

“I believe that though the
food at Florham at many times leaves much to be desired,” Florham student Michael Saunders said, “their choices in adding specialty food bars every week, along with an omelet bar being open throughout the day, provides a larger variety of options for students.”

The Gourmet Dining website states that there are dining options available on the Metro campus until 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and until 7:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

Metro student Benson bridled at the advantage Florham students have over those at Metro.

“It’s crazy that they can eat until late at night on weekends at the other campus,” he said. “We have more than double the people here but less places to eat.”

For their part, Florham students enjoy the long hours of available food service.

“The convenience of The Grill being open from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. helps students who are incredibly busy and might not have time to eat throughout the day,” said Florham student Michael Saunders. “It’s especially nice for theater majors, such as myself, who are in rehearsal until 10 to 11 p.m. and might not have time to eat until rehearsal.”

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Robert Valenti, associate vice president for auxiliary services for the university, explained that when hours were recently extended on the Metro campus, he had to propose the idea to Gourmet Dining and come up with numbers as to how much it would cost, also determining how much the meal plan prices will go up.

“I’ve tried just about everything when it comes to hours,” he said.

According to FDU’s fact sheet,
there are fewer than 700 resident students on the Metro campus, while at Florham there are about 1,500. Valenti said it’s a numbers game.

“Size is not an excuse,” Valenti
said, “but you have to consider it.”

But he added that the differences between the campuses go beyond mere numbers.

“We are not like Florham,” Valenti said. “Although the company is the same, the demands of the students are quite different.”

The FDU fact sheet confirms Valenti’s claim. The campus populations are very different.

As of Fall 2016, the Metropolitan Campus had 690 African-American students, 430 Asian students and 1853 Latino students, while Florham only had 345 African-American students, 237 Asian students and 516 Latino students. They did not specify what percentages of students identify as white.

As for Florham’s five food outlets to the Metro campus’ three, Valenti said it’s “just a matter of geography.”

Students at both campuses appear to be dissatisfied with the food quality.

In an informal survey conducted by The Equinox via SurveyMonkey with 65 respondents, 36 from the Metro campus and 29 from Florham, 61.5 percent of respondents said that they were either somewhat dissatisfied or dissatisfied with their campus’ food options. Forty six point two percent were either somewhat dissatisfied or dissatisfied with their campus’ hours of operation for dining venues and 72.3 percent were somewhat dissatisfied or dissatisfied with the quality of their campus’ food.

When asked what issues they feel face their campus’ dining options, 78.5 percent listed food quality and 84.6 percent listed food choice.

“There isn’t enough care or thought put into the vegan options,” a respondent from the Metro campus said. “They often look sloppy and unappetizing.”

“We’d like more to-go options, please,” another from the Metro campus said.

Metro student Benson took particular exception to the vegan section.

“The food’s just not good,” Benson said. “I never eat from the vegetarian section – which, as a vegetarian, is bad.”


And then there’s the alcohol issue.

At Florham, no problem. They have a pub on campus. If you’re 21, you get served. And you can have alcohol on campus.

But Metro is designated as a “dry campus,” according to the university’s website. This means that students are not permitted to have alcohol on campus property even if they are 21 years of age or older.

At Metro, Alcohol = Trouble for students.

According to the website of the Office of Residence Life on the Metro campus, “The possession or consumption (and being in the presence) of alcoholic beverages is prohibited in the residence halls or anywhere on campus – even if you are of legal drinking age.”

The first “alcohol violation” is $200; the second is $250 plus residence hall probation, and the third is $300, and “removal from the residence hall” – translation – expulsion from student housing.

Meanwhile, Florham has a private pub for students.

According to its Facebook page, Florham’s Bottle Hill Pub is “a private club for 21 or older FDU students. A FDU student can bring 1 guest. Two forms of ID required from both host and guest.”

A student took exception to the dry campus policy at Metro.

“I believe it can be assumed that if you are in college you are capable of being a responsible adult,” Metro junior Alyssa Shock said. “By not allowing alcohol on our campus it’s almost as if the policies are taking away this assumption.”

Gourmet Dining, which provides food service to both campuses, is a New Jersey-based company has been serving both FDU campuses since 1996, according to its website. It is located in Madison, N.J., home to the Florham Campus. In 2014, Compass Group, the biggest international food service company in the world, bought Gourmet Dining.

“It’s good because they have the benefits of a small company with all the resources of a large one,” Valenti said.

Valenti also said that this acquisition means more regulations and guidelines are followed by employees regarding food safety and cleanliness.

FDU has a 1o-year contract with Gourmet Dining and, according to Valenti, it’s been renewed three times so far for “good reason.” The contract is up in 2022, however it has not yet been discussed whether or not it will be renewed.

And if students want to voice their opinions to the university about food options, Valenti says there is an opportunity to each week.

“We have ASC-US (Auxiliary Service Committee for University Students) every week in the cafeteria,” Valenti said.

Moreover, a Student Government Association senator is delegated responsibility to get feedback from the campus community and report it back to Valenti.

Both campuses have also implemented Chatback, where students can anonymously text each dining outlet their feedback and receive a response.

“Chatback is one of the best things that’s happened,” Valenti said.

All managers see the texts, as well as Valenti, and they will directly reply.

“If a serious issue comes up, I address it,” he said.

Valenti said changes in food service are coming on the Metro campus. While it is not yet official, he said, the campus is expecting a food truck on the North Lot in the coming weeks that will serve breakfast food early in the day. The campus will then give it a “trial run,” Valenti said, and then determine where to go from there.