Poor food quality and lacklustre furniture and décor were just some of the things students sounded off about during a Brandon University residence and food services forum on Tuesday night.
A panel of administrators got an earful from a number of students regarding student meal plans and overall quality of life on campus.
Among the nearly 30 students in attendance were Erika Rasmussen and Emma Cooper. The first-year music students, who have been living in residence since September, said they both plan to move out at the end of the term.
Cooper, who’s originally from Dauphin, said she believes living outside of residence will be cheaper in the long run. A big money saver, she said, will not be having to buy into the university’s non-refundable $3,920.20 a year meal plan, which all students living in residence are required to do.
Even after purchasing meals for some of her fellow students, she still had around $300 left over at the end of last semester, she said.
"I don’t use all the money on my meal card, because I’m not as hungry as maybe most people are," Cooper said. "If they could just lessen the amount we have to pay for it and then if people need more, they can just add more on."
Students having money left on their meal cards at the end of the year isn’t uncommon. Scott Lamont, BU’s vice-president of administration and finance, said meal plans bring in around $1.1 million in annual revenue, roughly two per cent of which, or approximately $20,000 to $30,000, is the amount of money still left on students’ cards at the end of each year.
"The food service operation at Brandon University doesn’t generate enough revenue to cover all of its costs," Lamont said. "That’s why it doesn’t get refunded because basically we’re counting on that money to be part of covering the cost of the meal plan."
Besides the outdated and for some students, uncomfortable furniture in the university’s three residence halls, students inquired about having the option to choose the amount of money they want to have on their meal card instead of a fixed rate. Some students would also like to see SUDS, the university’s on-campus bar, added to the meal plan. Currently, students can only use their meal cards in the university’s cafeteria or Charley Biggs’, a restaurant located inside the university.
Paul O’Driscoll, director of residences hall programs, said it’s "tough times" for the university’s food services, so it had to limit meal card spending at SUDS to $100 per term.
To consider adding SUDS to the meal plan, O’Driscoll said they need to first "get their financial house in order."
"It’s something that we consider to be valuable because it gives students that we’re trying to attract to residence another food option," O’Driscoll said. "We just have to be able to afford it."
The three residence halls on campus are co-ed McMaster Hall, which can host up to 270 students, female-only Flora Cowan, which can accommodate 110 students, and male-only Darrach Hall, which can host 90.
Currently, there are around 255 students living in residence. O’Driscoll said usually 275 to 300 is a more "comfortable" number for the university.
"I’m confident we’ll be there this fall, but we have some hard work to do," he said.
Besides O’Driscoll and Lamont, other administrators on Tuesday’s panel included Tom Brophy, associate vice-president, student services, enrolment management and university registrar; Dr. Gervan Fearon, vice-president and academic provost; and Koren Hamilton, manager of food services.