Last week, Claremont McKenna College’s Hub Grill left students feeling burned after it restricted, then restored, its meal replacement policy.
Several students were caught off guard when they returned from winter break to find CMC’s popular dining spot, which serves packaged and freshly-prepared food items for lunch and dinner, was no longer accepting meal replacement as a form of payment for all items.
Students at Scripps College, Harvey Mudd College and CMC can use a meal swipe as payment for an array of hot and cold food items Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, according to CMC’s website.
But the Hub limited the range of items that qualified for meal replacement to an array of grab-and-go items and one “special of the day” — meals that varied from avocado toast to grilled cheese and bisque soup.
“Many students were frustrated by the change, as CMC students enjoy taking advantage of the flexibility and convenience of meal replacement, and most students seem to rely on the wide array of hot food options,” ASCMC President Dina Rosin CM ’20 said via email.
For many with evening classes, athletic events and late working hours, the meal replacement option is a staple which provides hot meals after dining halls close.
“For me and also my teammates, it would have been a real detriment, because a lot of the time we did have late practices, so the cafeterias would close and coming to the Hub was all we had,” soccer player William Birchard CM ’21 said. “So to have that taken away would be really unfortunate.”
The change in policy prompted an indignant response from students, many of whom voiced their concerns to CMC Dean of Students Dianna Graves.
According to Graves, Bon Appétit, which operates the Hub and Collins Dining Hall, did not consult the Dean of Students office before making the change, compounding confusion.
In response, Graves said the Dean of Students office provided CMC students with a form to express feedback to which over 140 students replied — more than 10 percent of the enrolled students at CMC.
“That ended up being really important information,” Graves said, “because it kind of reinforced from a much broader student lens what was important to [CMC] students in terms of their dining preferences at the Hub.”
In addition, the Dean of Students office held a meeting Jan. 30 with Bon Appétit general manager Pam Franco, which Rosin, Campus Improvements Chair Gauri Taneja CM ’20 and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Director of Athletics Erica Jasper also attended.
“Ms. Franco was incredibly receptive,” Graves said, “and realized right away that the benefits to the meal replacement policy as it existed exceeded some of the other concerns that she may have had in terms of efficiency and other things.”
Rosin echoed this sentiment.
“I found the meeting to be incredibly productive, as Ms. Franco completely understood why students were hoping to continue meal replacing all hot and cold food items,” she said. “[Franco] had immediately reversed the policy upon hearing the concern from students and administration.”
According to Graves, Franco had been away from CMC for a number of years and then returned to campus, so her recollection of meal replacement came from an earlier time of employment. Graves believes this led to the policy change.
“I think she didn’t fully, nor did her colleagues fully, understand the shift in how students use meal replacements now as compared to the way they may have when she was here before,” Graves said.
Graves told students about the restoration of the previous policy via email Friday, the day following the meeting.
Meal replacement wasn’t the only topic of conversation at the meeting, which also covered further potential dining services improvements.
“[Franco] is looking for more ways to incorporate student feedback into dining services at CMC,” Rosin added. “We discussed possibly extending the hours that students can meal replace at the [H]ub, and other food options that could be offered in the future.”
Graves said she was satisfied with the results of the meeting.
“[Franco] was deeply appreciative of the feedback from the students,” Graves said, “and also acknowledged that for all future policy changes, should they be considered, that we’ll have good opportunity for students to weigh in on those before they go into effect.”