The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Parkhurst makes changes to dining experience

Students say more work must be done
Photo by Patrick Hansell for The Lafayette
Dining administrators have cited growing pains in the challenges experienced by students.

After controversy over the transition to Parkhurst Dining, several changes have been implemented, generating mostly positive reactions. However, many remain unsatisfied with current dining options and accessibility.

Last Thursday, well over one hundred students crowded the newly constructed Leopard’s Lair for a Student Government-led dining hearing, during which many students aired their frustrations and complaints with Parkhurst. Several dining staff members and administrators also attended the meeting.

“During International Student Orientation … I had a [Muslim student] come up and tell me the one day that we ordered outside [Lafayette], he took his food and he said ‘thank you so much,’” Yaseen Saleh ‘25 said during his emotional testimony at the hearing. “‘I finally get to eat food. Finally.’ I don’t want him to have to go through four years of not getting to eat again.”

“This is not just ‘I’m a picky eater,'” Saleh added. “This is something that’s my religion … I have that right.” 

In addition to religious dietary concerns, other issues raised during the hearing included little accommodation for nonreligious dietary restrictions, a reduction in meal swipe options and the working conditions of dining staff. Over 40 students and some dining staff spoke at the hearing.

Last Friday, the day following the hearing, a statement from Parkhurst Dining was sent by Lafayette Communications, addressing several of the concerns raised and announcing changes made in response.

“We would like to offer a sincere and humble apology for any frustrations you have experienced with Lafayette Dining as we begin the 2023-24 academic year,” the email read. “It is always our intent to create a dining experience that is fun and robust, and meets the needs of all the students we serve. It is apparent that we have fallen short on this promise and that was never our intention.”

In the email, Parkhurst Dining promised to immediately improve labeling of food options, restore the availability of popular fried items in Lower Farinon, and increase the number of vegan, vegetarian and halal options in the dining halls. All chicken is now halal as of Wednesday, according to dining administrator comments at a Student Government meeting held with them on Wednesday. The administrators also told Student Government that there would no longer be a cap on meal swipe usage as of Saturday – Parkhurst had previously restricted students to one, then two meal swipes per dining period.

College President Nicole Hurd noted that this restriction was a return to pre-COVID policy and is in line with other colleges and universities. However, she also said that Parkhurst wanted to respond to student concerns by keeping the policy that has existed since 2020.

While these improvements have been praised, students continue to crave increased options.

“I just feel like the food’s better,” Martin Ayala ‘26 said. “That’s definitely a win. But … they’re not giving us enough options for what we’re paying.”

Students with dietary restrictions, despite the improvements made, continue to struggle to find satisfactory meals.

“I have struggled to find any options for meals as a vegan,” Jillian Berger ‘26 wrote in an email. “They said they would put vegan chicken tenders on the Lower menu and I saw them one day and now they are gone. They have taken away virtually any option.”

Remy Oktay ‘24 eats almost exclusively at Marquis and Upper dining halls due to his food allergies.

“I’ve had a great experience working with the staff there to understand the food options that were there, though there are fewer than in years past,” Oktay said.

Additionally, accessibility in the dining halls remains an issue.

“It’s so cramped and very tight,” Dexter Kennedy ‘26, who uses a mechanical wheelchair, said about the new seating configurations in Marquis and Upper. “Even if I am asking people to move, I still am crashing into things, so it just feels like it’s pushing me out. And that’s not a welcoming setting.”

On Wednesday, Student Government Dining Ad Hoc Committee met Lafayette administrators and Parkhurst management.

Topics covered during the committee meeting included the price of items sold and the technology implemented at Simon’s Market, returning popular foods to Gilbert’s and Lower Farinon, traffic flow in the dining halls and limited allergen-sensitive meal options.

Long wait times were also brought up during the meeting. Geoff Labe, assistant vice president of business services, said that the number of meal swipes used this week was identical to this week from last year at all venues.

“There’s more coming,” Labe said about changes to dining services.

Olivia Puzio ’25, the Student Government president, also expressed concerns to the dining staff that they should be more transparent with any changes. It is expected that Parkhurst’s staff will communicate updates and concerns in future weeks.

“I think it’s more important to tell the students [updates],” Puzio said. “We told them to be more active on social media, have a [dining] form. Although Student Government serves as a liaison, it would be much easier to tell the whole student body.”

The administration has also been increasingly aware of these changes.

“I think the college administration is incredibly impressed by how responsive Parkhurst is, with how many student meetings they’ve taken, how many parent meetings they’ve taken and they’ve really shown to be exceptional partners,” Hurd said. “And last week in terms of saying ‘we’ve messed something up,’ and of course correcting things.”

Hurd is encouraging the dining staff to continue listening to campus community discussions. 

“There are kind of three buckets that feel urgent to fix, the last one around allergens and those foods,” Hurd said, adding that meal swipe options and diversity of food offerings were of importance to the student body. “I know [Labe] personally has met with lots of students.”

The college is continuing to investigate concerns brought forth at the several dining meetings, alongside continuously listening for student feedback. Further investigations by The Lafayette into student and employee concerns will take place in the coming weeks.

Disclaimer: Managing Editor Trebor Maitin ’24 serves as the Student Government parliamentarian. He did not contribute writing or reporting.

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About the Contributors
Selma O'Malley
Selma O'Malley, News Editor
Waiting for someone to write a sitcom about a college newspaper.
Andreas Pelekis
Andreas Pelekis, Assistant News Editor
Tennis addict.
Patrick Hansell
Patrick Hansell, Staff Photographer

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