USF Dining Services failed to prepare students for break

There are about 5,500 students living on campus, according to Ana Hernandez, and there’s no doubt some of them will remain on campus during spring break.

However, USF Dining only began advertising spring break operating hours this week, in addition to unfairly offering few accommodations for residents.

Marketing Manager Jenna Burns said USF Dining began advertising its operation hours Monday through the dining website, Facebook page and at dining locations, mere days before students will be free for an entire week from their spring course load.

USF Dining should have informed students of its limited hours and locations much earlier. Instead, students who will be stuck on campus and need more than five days to find alternative accommodations were left to wonder if they would be able to eat on campus.

Facebook updates are a good start, but a mass e-mail to students would have been better.

The USF Dining Facebook page was updated with a status Monday afternoon stating the spring break operational hours. The page only has 1,154 followers, or “likes,” as of Wednesday evening – about one-fifth of the residential population – and not all of them were from students. This means that a majority of on-campus residents may not be familiar with the USF Dining profile.

Not properly announcing operating hours is not the only problem.

From March 12 to about March 20, students who aren’t a part of INTO, an international student program, cannot use their meal plans, which cost $1,180 per semester for the 2010-11 academic year.

Strangely, INTO students are exempt from the restriction and can use their meal plans, which include an additional $100 per week to cover meals in dining halls consumed over school breaks, Burns said.

Therefore, most on-campus residents will have to use their own private funds, or leftover “Dining Dollars,” suggesting either poor judgment or favoritism toward international students.

“Grocery shopping and preparing food in a residence hall can be difficult,” the Dining website states, but Burns said meal plans are not designed for non-INTO students to use during breaks.

Meal plan options open to INTO students must be made available to all residents without requiring them to purchase extra Dining Dollars for the holiday.

USF Dining must not assume that on-campus students who aren’t from another country have a place to go or the ability to pay for additional food accommodations during breaks. Some may come from Michigan, Wyoming or other distant states and face the budget crunches many college students are familiar with.

During spring break, anyone can still eat at Juniper-Poplar dining hall, the only open dining hall, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for lunch and 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. for dinner. However, the location may be an unacceptable inconvenience for residents living on the east side of campus who still pay about $1,000 for meal plans and at least $2,100 to live on campus per semester.

It would be more convenient to keep a centrally located dining hall open during break periods.

Residents should not have to pay more than $3,000 per semester just to end up hungry or inconvenienced during what should be a relaxed and stress-free week.

USF Dining Services needs to provide more options for the students remaining on campus during spring break, not make them stress over what they will eat for dinner.

Diedra Rodriguez is a sophomore majoring in mass communicatoins.