Campus News

Students boycott Sufficient Grounds in protest to policy changes

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Over the past week, campus has been reawakened with the noise and excitement of returning students bustling around, diving into classes and extracurricular activities and becoming reacquainted with the dining options on campus. Many were surprised, however, when they returned to discover that they could no longer use meal swipes at Sufficient Grounds (SG). "That's bogus," said senior Ashley Monday. "I mostly don’t understand why they did it." While freshmen were largely unaffected and unconcerned with the issue, many returning students were understandably upset at the perceived cutbacks, which left them with only two dining options for their meal swipes. Many speculated that the decision was one of many "budget cuts" they had seen over the past couple of years. Vice President for Business Services David Armstrong, Vice President for Student Development Shawn Holtgren, Sodexo General Manager Jim Metherd, and Senior Director of Auxiliary Services Ed Bernhard were the key individuals involved in making the decision. The Bethel Beacon spoke with Armstrong, who said the decision had less to do with money than students seem to think. "SG was not designed, was not built, to be a meal location," he said. "The original intent and design of the building is not sufficient to do meal preparation." Armstrong said that the kitchen was "really just more of a warming kitchen" and, as a result, SG staff were unable to keep up with the long lines and high demand for meals during breakfast and lunch. Armstrong also said the decision was affected by SG's proximity to the Dining Commons, which in his opinion made it an inefficient use of space. "Is it the best use, is it the best efficiency, to have two dining locations across the street from one another for a campus our size?" he said. "Front door of SG to the front door of the DC, It's only 220 feet." Armstrong said that all the food that was previously available through meal swipes at SG is now available at the Dining Commons, and the Acorn will now be open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Additionally, students can still purchase food from SG using Bethel Bucks, cash or debit/credit cards. For nearly a week after the change was introduced, Sufficient Grounds remained nearly empty. Several students said they were "boycotting SG" in an effort to make their point. "Not gonna lie, it's pretty boring," said sophomore Natalie Hoist, a student worker at SG. "Like, hardly anyone comes in on our shifts and we get everything clean because that’s what we do when we don't have a lot of business, but it's pretty boring." Sufficient Grounds Manager Denise Amstutz said the boycott didn't deliver the changes many students had hoped to see through the boycott. "If anything, it made the opposite point," she said. "And I think students realized eventually that they weren't hurting SG, just themselves, by not coming." Now, there seems to be a consistent stream of students who visit, most of whom are looking for a quiet place to do homework. "The fact that they didn't tell us SG wasn't an option kinda messed up my meal plan," said sophomore Joshua King. He was eating at the Acorn with a group of friends, and the others nodded in agreement. "I don't like it because we, like, lose all our meal swipes," said sophomore Kristin Ford. Senior Tabatha Miller added, "I like how we had more than two options of places to eat before." Armstrong said that the cost to students for meal plans had gone up less than usual this year – just 3 percent as opposed to the 5 percent increase students normally see from year to year. However, some quick math shows that, once the amount of Bethel Bucks allotted per semester is deducted: * The 20-meal plan costs $6.25 per swipe (total cost $2,215 per semester, 17 weeks of usability, minus $90 in Bethel Bucks) * The 14-meal plan costs $8.26 per swipe (total cost $2,030 per semester, 17 weeks of usability, minus $60 in Bethel Bucks); and * The 10-meal plan costs $10.79 per swipe (total cost $1,885 per semester, 17 weeks of usability, minus $50 in Bethel Bucks). * The Flex 100 meal plan costs $16.82 per swipe (total cost $2,132 per semester, 100 swipes, minus $450 in Bethel Bucks) * The Flex 125 meal plan costs $14.26 per swipe (total cost $2,132 per semester, 125 swipes, minus $350 in Bethel Bucks) * The Flex 160 meal plan costs $11.76 per swipe (total cost $2,132 per semester, 160 swipes, minus $250 in Bethel Bucks) Despite the high costs per swipe for many of the meal plans, many more students are upset about having more limited options than before while the cost of the meal plans continues to increase. "We get Bethel Bucks, but we try not to use them up right away," said Monday. "We try to save them for Politos, like, when we get sick of campus food." Monday said she thinks the changes at SG will force students to re-evaluate how they plan to spend their Bethel Bucks. The changes didn't just affect student dining, however. Student worker hours at Sufficient Grounds were also cut, and some students who previously worked at Sufficient Grounds had to transfer to the Acorn or to the Dining Commons. "The important thing is, we're still here, ready to serve the students," Amstutz said. "I love students. I love Bethel." A forum is planned at Sufficient Grounds for Thursday evening, September 1 at 9:15 p.m., where students will have an opportunity to share their opinions on the issue.

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