During the first Hoya Roundtable of the new school year, students had the chance to voice their concerns about the facilities at Georgetown. As usual, students were concerned about the most important facility at Georgetown: Leo O’Donovan Dining Hall.
Moderated by Chief Operating Officer Christopher Augostini, the Hoya Roundtable included the new Provost Robert M. Groves, Chief Business Officer for University Services Debbie Morey, Interim Vice President of Facilities Frank Tiscione, Associate Vice President of Auxiliary Services Margie Bryant, Marketing Manager Kendra Boyer, and Chief Operations Director of Dining Robert Tobin.
Groves began the Roundtable by introducing himself and reaffirming his dedication to creating a better environment for students. “One of the big things were trying to do is to integrate the financial side of the house with the academic side of the house a little more fully,” Groves said. “That sort of integration should makes us better.”
Tiscione also announced a plan to develop a new facility to house students on Georgetown. “We hired a consultant to come in to help us with that. The original thing was to build an addition on the Leavey Center,” Tiscione said. “But we wanted to take a holistic approach on that and really take a comprehensive look at some other potential possibilities.”
Bryant highlighted several of Georgetown Services accomplishments such as its initiative to bring food trucks on to campus. “We also worked in tandem with Student Affairs in bringing food trucks this year,” Bryant said. “We’re happy to say every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening till about three in the morning, we have been able to successfully bring food trucks.”
Most students, however, were not there to listen to new projects for Georgetown facilities. Instead, they wanted to know what the administration is doing to address the complaints about dining at Georgetown.
The disappearance of the daily make your own pizza station as well as the lack of variety in vegetables at the stir-fry station greatly troubles Georgetown students. In response to those questions, the dining director said sanitation and conservation of food were the driving factors of change.
“We don’t have as many options available every day,” Tobin said.” “We found that we had a lot of fresh food that was being thrown out, especially on the upper level. So we made some modifications still offering different vegetables still offering a couple of proteins, but limiting the number of options and cycling different options through.”
Tobin appeared receptive to much of the criticism regarding the lack of utensils and sub-par sanitation of Leo’s. “We did add quite a supply of small wears in terms of plates, cups, and spoons, but that doesn’t mean that those always get out to everyone,” Tobin said. “In terms of cleaning surfaces, when we look at what we need to do, we, as managers and culinary staff, walk each of the stations each and every day before meal periods. We had seven new managers we hired. It’s not a good excuse, but I can tell you that they’re getting a lot better at looking for those things.”
Even more complaints arose about the cost of the meal plans, the requirement for freshman and sophomores to purchase meal plans, and the extension of the Leo’s contract for five years without input from students. The atmosphere of the audience noticeably became combative when students asked questions that personally concerned them.
“I’m eating at Leo’s maybe about two or three times in a period of seven days,” Lydia Brown (COL’15) said. “Especially with the hike in the price for a meal plan, a lot of my money and my parent’s money go down the drain.”
Tobin ascribes this plan to the need for freshman and sophomores to have “common experiences” in wasting their money on food they don’t eat. Although the dining staff has made several improvements to Leo’s, they still have much work to do to improve the sanitation of Leo’s and to increase student cooperation in decision-making. Tobin reports the status of Georgetown dining the best: “We need to do better.”
Photo by Matthew Fried