By Alyson Hatfield
CHARTWELLS Higher Education has been providing dining to York College students for as many as 20 years, President Pamela Gunter-Smith told members of The Spartan staff during a recent interview. She wasn’t certain of the specific number of years, only that the service pre-dated her.
When it has been time to renew their contract there was no question as to if the school should continue using them since students and administrators were happy with the service they provided to the school, she said. The current contract runs for another seven years, she added.
When Gunter-Smith was asked about Chartwells’ time here she said, “The only reason that we did this contract again was because we had had such good service from them, and there are some other things that they would do for us. But then they just kind of went downhill.”
Students now say they are tired of opening Dine on Campus and seeing the same menu over and over again or walking into the dining hall and being served uncooked chicken, not having options that serve specific dietary needs. Their unhappiness led to three Senate members sending out a petition to document that dissatisfaction, prompting a town hall several weeks ago.
“So I am very disappointed. And I have been talking to them and their upper management about that,” Gunter-Smith said. “It remains to be seen what going to happen with that. But the reason that we went with them was because we had no reason to change. We have never got complaints about food.”
Per its website, Chartwells Higher Education is servicing 300 colleges and universities across the country. Besides YCP, other schools it services include NYU, American University, Pace Law School, Rutgers and Towson (Md.). Its annual revenue was $3.36 billion in 2021, according to RocketReach.
For graduating YCP seniors, the unhappiness this semester has been extra frustrating because they saw how good the dining hall was before COVID-19; now seeing the state of the dining hall, students are fed up.
“I remember that dining hall at dinner time would be packed from 4 to 7. It would be full,” Charlie Green, Student Senate president, told The Spartan during a sit-down interview. ”They would have different variety options. They would have different theme nights. The back section will be open. People would look forward to go eat. Then the pandemic hit, and then you got hit with the same two excuses the past few years: The cost of things are going up due to inflation and you can’t get anybody to work it.”
Green said it really hit home one night when, following a meeting, he and others went to eat on a Monday at 5 o’clock. “There was no proteins to eat, so there was no meat, and if there was just a piece of left-out ham. Undercooked potatoes. There was no soup. And there was nothing rin the grill section. We were like four days before a break, so there was no excuse.
“And we finally got to a breaking point where it was like there has been no change,” Green said. “And there was a little bit of pressure from the president’s office, as I’ve been meeting with her regularly. She was like, ‘I’m on my way out. Something needs to be done about the food, but I can’t do it, they won’t listen to me. So I want you guys as the students to do it.’” He said they were more than happy to speak up.
Even after fighting to get a town hall, students were met with the same responses from Chartwells: You should have spoken to a manager, the food is really expensive, and students should set up a meeting to discuss this at a later date.
Green said he felt that the town hall went “as expected.”
Before the town hall even took place, there is a committee made up of students from the Student Senate, student-athletes, and some of the dining management staff. That committee was able to bring back many things such as Wing Wednesday and other theme nights.
“We’ve been trying to get different things to make the dining hall more enticing to have people come to it because, back again my freshman year, there are people that would get the most bottom meal plan for the special nights because they were enjoyable to go to,” Green said. “You could go with your team if you were an athlete. You could go with your friends if you were part of a club organization. But you don’t have that now.”
In the town hall many students were told to contact the dining hall staff, even though many students had insisted that they already had. It seems after the town hall not much has changed within the dining hall beyond raising more complaints about how it was conducted, with students only allowed to ask about the food and not about other issues such as staffing, and that they were limited to one question.
“It was frustrating sitting up there because you just wanted to let people talk. But it made me realize like, oh, you know, maybe being a cutthroat CEO was not for me,” Green said. “I didn’t want to cut people off or tell people that they couldn’t ask a second question. But it was just it was the agreement we had with them. And we wanted to make sure that that line of communication could happen. So we thought something was better than nothing.”
The future of Chartwells here still seems to be unclear. Gunter-Smith told The Spartan that “if things don’t improve, we will have to make some changes.”
Alyson Hatfield is a senior Political Science major with a minor in public relations.
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