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Dining hall surveys SMC

Caitlin Housley | Friday, August 26, 2011

Saint Mary’s students are the No. 1 voice in the Noble Family Dining Hall, according to dining hall general manager Barry Bowles, and next week they will have another chance to make sure their favorite foods are available this year.

Bowles said he will circulate a student survey next week that has inspired major changes to the dining hall in past years.

“When you ask what’s new in the dining hall, [the dining hall staff is] going to wait until students tell us what they want to see new in the dining hall,” Bowles said. “There were a lot of really good changes last year that we’re keeping for this year, because students seem to be extremely happy with them. But who knows? Maybe they’re going to come up with something even better.”

The survey, created by Bowles and a member of the Student Government Association (SGA), will ask students what they would like to see change in the dining hall.

Last year, the survey yielded around 560 responses, Bowles said. Some of the changes included dinnertime music, taco and hummus bars, new salad dressings and more cereal choices.

“I take student concerns and challenges very seriously,” Bowles said. “I’m hoping they’ll come up with something great.”

Bowles said he takes every answer to heart and tries to act on it.

“[The survey] kind of takes [dining hall decisions off my shoulders], and I’m just not making this arbitrary decision,” he said. “I hate making those types of decisions. It’s more so, give me your feedback, and give me what you guys want to see.”

Junior Jenny Gracyalny, who took the survey last year, said she is pleased to see the dining hall made an effort to listen to student concerns.

“I do see some changes [in the dining hall]. For example, last year, a bunch of girls commented about how they wanted Caesar dressing at the salad bar, and low and behold, we now have Caesar dressing, and a taco bar and hummus out all the time,” Gracyalny said. “[The dining hall staff has] always been very good about listening to our comments.”

The dining hall provides other ways for students to submit feedback. SGA established a comment card process at the front desk of the Student Center.

Bowles said these comment cards go directly into a locked box at the student center desk. Each month, the Office of Student Involvement reviews the comments, and Bowles receives a report on the feedback placed in the box.

“There is no way that I can look at a comment card and just throw it away because I don’t like what it says,” Bowles said. “Somebody else has seen it, and I have to respond to it. It’s a very, very good system.”

Students can also provide anonymous feedback through the Dining Services section of the school’s website.

“Students have a right to look at their dining hall and [voice their concerns],” Bowles said. “That’s how we get better.”

Thanks to the efforts of the dining hall staff, Gracyalny said the dining hall is turning into a more pleasurable experience.

“I think that the dining hall has improved on quality since my freshman year,” she said. “Dinners are exciting to go to instead of a drudgery.”