Food: possibly the single most important part of any college student’s life. More than a source of sustenance, it’s a relationship.
ETSU recently announced it’s ending its contract with its long time food provider Aramark in 2016 rather than 2019, a move that has put the future of food at ETSU into question.
However, because many students don’t know that Aramark exists, the university and members of student government are attempting to make the upcoming selection process more transparent.
“Students are going to be heavily involved,” said Vice President for Finance and Administration David Collins. “We’re bringing in a consultant that’s going to help us by interviewing student, faculty and staff into what they want in food services.”
Collins said the university is setting up six or seven committees that will offer student input into the decision making process for the upcoming renovations to the D.P. Culp University Center.
ETSU will also put a student on a special plenary committee to help review proposals submitted by food providers.
The university will release a request for proposals in January 2016.
Student representatives are also searching for ways to boost student participation.
Student Government Association Sen. Kevin Carlson introduced a piece of legislation during an SGA senate meeting Oct. 6 that would make students more involved in the selection process.
“Given that the decision will impact students to an incalculable degree, their input is vital in making sure that their needs are met.” Carlson said. “In addition, the legislation seeks to gain input from students both inside and outside of SGA for better diversity of perspective.”
Freshman Valerie Haney enjoys the food options present in the Culp Atrium and believes the university should receive insight from multiple sources when it begins seeking input from the campus community.
“I think it should vary between faculty choices and student choices because a lot of the student choices are probably going to be more fatty foods,” Haney said. “My opinion, I believe there should be a lot more healthier foods and I think a lot more faculty will believe in that, but I don’t know.”
Deven Pastella, another freshman, doesn’t eat meals in the upstairs cafeteria, but said he believes the atrium offers a decent amount of variety.
“I think students should have input to the point where they should actually be able to choose what restaurants will be on campus,” Pastella said.
The university ended its contract with Aramark early to ensure that the new food provider will be able to offer suggestions during the planning stage of the renovations to the Culp Center. The university predicts the renovations will be complete in 2019.
“What I have heard from students is that they want the new contract to enable a high degree of student choice and to meet their specific dietary needs,” Carlson said. “Our hope is that the new contract will be written in such a way that enables a continual open discourse between students and the provider to ensure a mutually beneficial relationship.”