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Petition calls for dining hall improvements

Screenshot by Valerie Vasconez

A petition on Change.org has called for the university to look into changes that have been made to Bradley’s dining services and the impact it has had on the student body.

Taylan Cantrell, a junior nursing major, started the petition for improvements in dining services and has gained 746 signatures as of April 15. The petition said that “[to] meet the budget [cuts] set due to the pandemic, the dining supervisory staff was removed, and the daily cooking staff was significantly cut down.”

Cantrell said that the petition reflects a general opinion heard from the student body and Aramark employees.

“I wanted to bring to the attention of management in Aramark and Bradley that students and employees alike have been unhappy with management and quality in Dining Services,” Cantrell said. “I have since met with the director of Aramark at Bradley Sue Boettcher and the Chief operating officer Sheryl Cox about the petition, so I can speak on a few of the claims.”

Cantrell worked as a Geisert student worker freshman and sophomore year, and is friends with several Aramark employees as well as student workers in the kitchens. Cantrell reached out to several people during Easter weekend to talk about complaints from students who are on Cantrell’s floor as a resident advisor about what they felt was going wrong in the kitchens.

Sheryl Cox, chief financial officer and chief operating officer, said that it is not typical practice to respond to online petitions and demands. However, Cantrell gave them the courtesy of following up with a direct email requesting a conversation in which Cantrell attended a meeting.

“We respect and thank Taylan for taking time to meet with me and Aramark Dining management,” Cox said via email. “Taylan shared feedback regarding their experience with meal quality and areas they suggest could be improved. Our discussion clarified some questions and concerns that were brought up, allowed for constructive feedback and we discussed future participation of students in dining feedback programs that are already in place.”

Topics discussed in the meeting included several claims made in the petition such as regular food poisoning occurrences, Aramark staff walking out due to working conditions and a noticeable decrease in quality within the food options.

“We had some successful back and forth, and Sue [Boettcher] stated intentions to improve quality through some new managers coming into the kitchens with fresh ideas and energy,” Cantrell said. “I requested that students receive a grant of additional Quick Cash to make up for Easter weekend closures, but no promises were made and I haven’t heard from Sue about it again. I think only time will tell if anything will change at all.”

According to Cantrell, Boettcher and Cox said that they have had no reports of food poisoning in two years. In order for them to investigate food poisoning, a student has to go to campus health services with their symptoms and the doctors there have to report a food-borne illness to Aramark.

“We take tremendous pride in food safety protocols and continue to relentlessly monitor food preparation and storage,” Cox said. “As of this date, we have no formal complaints or investigations.”

When asked whether there were any comments or concerns the university received about food quality, food options or short staffing on campus that could have led to this petition, Cox said that they have been doing all they can to make dining areas safe during COVID-19.

Additionally, due to close contact with the virus outside of campus, some dining staff have been exposed over the course of the pandemic, which is what led Cox and other university officials to invoke university COVID-19 exposure protocols. Those protocols included staff quarantines, which at times has led to staffing shortages. The recent weekend shutdown was one such instance where staffing was significantly short in which they decided to close.

Cox said that the closure allowed for additional COVID-19 cleaning and implementation of additional precautions for staff and guests.

“This decision was not made lightly, but rather to protect our students and staff from a potential COVID-19 case,” Cox said. “We have had extremely limited incidents of this nature in our dining operation since last fall. Even so, we continue to operate with an abundance of caution for our guests and staff safety and health.”

Cox said that if students have any additional comments or concerns, the best way to communicate is to participate in Residential Feedback Forums, Dining Advisory Meetings, Voice of the Consumer Feedback surveys and the Dining Styles survey and to leave their contact information. Additionally, if there is a specific incident or concern, Cox said that students should speak to the manager on duty at any of the food locations on campus, or they can send an email to BradleyDining@fsmail.bradley.edu for a manager to follow up.

“We want to hear about any concerns or issues as they occur, so it is important to communicate with us at the time of your experience so that we can immediately address them,” Cox said.

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