Dining hall hours disappoint


Tevion Albert, first-year pre-physcial therapy major (from left), Chris Babicz first-year accounting major and Kellyanne Critzer first-year elementary education major wait in a long line of students Tuesday at New Hall Dining. 

By Kurt Bitting

When students returned to the dining halls for the fall semester, they found they no longer had around-the-clock access to affordable meals. While dining hall hours have been adjusted since first being limited, the reduced hours of operation create a great inconvenience for students. The university is doing a disservice to its students by limiting dining hall hours.

Starting Monday, the dining halls will be opened longer than they were during the first two weeks of the fall semester. During the week, Neptune and Stevenson dining hours will run from open to close, 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. respectively, with only the Gilbert and New dining halls closing between 2 and 4 p.m. While these additional hours are nice, the adjustment does little to pacify the students who feel slighted.

Weekdays between 2 and 4 p.m., students living in New Residence Hall and Gilbert Hall will not be able to eat at their respective dining halls. Additionally, Gilbert Hall will not be open Saturday or Sunday. Without access to their most convenient dining halls, residents of New and Gilbert Halls will have to go out of their way to eat meals during those times.

Campus Dining Services intends to be productive while the dining halls are closed between 2 and 4 p.m. This time can be used for staff training and to allow the campus dining team to prepare for dinner Dan Koenen, executive director for campus dining services, said according to a Sept. 5 Northern Star article.

Though the long lines extending to the doors have ceased, the dining halls are still much more crowded at dinner than in previous semesters. Weekdays at around 7 p.m., students can be seen with plates full of food, awkwardly wandering around the New Hall dining area in search of a place to sit.

With limited seating and problematic time frames, students have had mixed reactions to the change in dining hours, but the consensus is that students are not happy. 75% of 79 participants would describe the reduced dining hall hours as very inconvenient, according to a Friday Northern Star Twitter poll. Only 13% reported mild inconvenience and 12% remained indifferent to the changes.

Campus Dining Services describes the dining halls as convenient places to eat, according to the Campus Dining Services webpage. If the dining halls are supposed to be a convenient place to eat, students should be able to access them throughout the day. Students living in Grant, Gilbert and New Hall have two options if they want to eat during the time their dining hall is closed: make the walk all the way to Stevenson or Neptune or pay to eat off-campus.

Titus Williamson, sophomore environmental studies major and Northern View Apartments community advisor, said he doesn’t like the recent changes but can empathize with Campus Dining Services’ motivations.

“I definitely have a busy schedule, so when I heard that [campus dining services were] pulling back in hours, I was a little upset,” Williamsom said. “I also understand because I know the dining halls are mostly student-run. They have lives and homework and training to do.”

While the two hours between 2 and 4 p.m. may seem like a small amount of time, college students are busy, and a lot can happen in two hours. Nickie Hoffmann, senior biomedical engineering major and New Hall East resident, said she planned her schedule to be free during the hours the dining hall is now closed. She also has night classes, making her unable to have dinner at New Hall dining.

“I have a break in classes every day between 2 and 4:30 p.m., and I scheduled my availability that way because I have night classes and I have day classes,” Hoffmann said. “That’s the time I have to eat and function. Now I don’t get to eat anymore, and I’m grumpy.”

NIU strives for inclusivity, according to NIU’s vision and mission statement, but the reduced hours exclude students who have busy schedules or night classes. Campus Dining Services excludes students who live in the Grant, Gilbert or New residence halls. The hours force students to walk out of their way every day or modify the schedule they organized months ago.

With that being said, the changes do stem from real financial problems. The reduced hours are a way by which the university is trying to be financially responsible, Koenen said in the aforementioned Northern Star article. 

“I know people are resistant to change,” Hoffman said. “But I feel like this is overall a very negative change; and it’s reflecting poorly on the university.”