Fall is here, and students at the Eastman School of Music have figured out their schedules and established their routines. By all accounts, the year is off to a terrific start for Eastman students. However, there is one aspect of life that doesn’t fit the high standards of performance Eastman is known for. Now maybe it’s just me, but the Dining Center here at the Eastman Student Living Center seems to be getting worse by the day. It’s bad enough that Eastman students are required to have a meal plan just like River Campus students, but prices have gone up since last year, and I’m pretty sure I know where the money is going – the River Campus! Dining centers at the River Campus have actually gotten better this year, with more options and just plain better food. River Campus students are always surprised when they hear that going to the River Campus for meals is like treating yourself to a nice restaurant, but that truly is the attitude of the Eastman populous, and that is not how things should be. Students at Eastman pay just as much for dining plans as students at the River Campus, which means something is terribly wrong. The question is if things are as bad as Eastman students feel, how bad are they and how long have they been this way? The most common complaint about the Dining Center at Eastman is its inconsistency. Going to meals is now met with a look of disgust – the fear of what is to come. Recent problems have included extremely long lines due to poor service and understaffing, as well as the frequent disappearance of milk, orange juice, sodas, coffee, stale cereal and a missing “exhibition station.” I’ve merely listed a few missing items. Remember, anything in the Dining Center is apt to disappear at random. A trip to lunch feels more and more like an episode of “Unsolved Mysteries” every day. The worst, though, is when the safety net that holds the whole operation together, the grill, disappears. Even when the food they serve us is unappetizing, at least we can always count on the grill for a decent burger or piece of chicken. There have been at least two times this year when I have walked into the Dining Center, checked out all of my options – which didn’t take very long – and walked right out. Further adding to the inconsistency the Dining Center exhibits on a regular basis is that the hours when lunch and dinner are served seem to be more “suggestions” than actual times. Often, there are consequences for coming to meals later than other people. Staff like to pack up early, so often most of the food will be packed up. “Someone who comes at 6:20 p.m. should have the same options as someone who comes at 5 p.m.,” sophomore Ken Rescsanski said. This is an extremely valid point since class schedule could allow a student to eat meals later than most people. Hopefully the University Dining Services can accommodate and “meet the needs” of students in the manner that they proclaim in their “vision.” Vegetarians are another sizeable faction of the students at Eastman that feel they are being ignored. “There’s not a whole lot of variety in my diet,” explains freshman Rachel Kincaid. “Food options change daily for the other students, but vegetarian options are the same every day.” Obviously the lack of upkeep in the Dining Center is lackluster, but the egregious violations of health and safety codes are even more alarming. If you haven’t found hair in your food yet, consider yourself one of the lucky ones. Need I say more? Well, yes I do, since it gets worse. There have been many days when I couldn’t find a clean tray or clean silverware, and those were the days when they didn’t run out of silverware. We’re not inspecting these items for bacteria, but could you guys at least make sure there isn’t crusty oatmeal on our spoons? There have also been numerous accounts of Dining Center staff working at the grill who pick up raw meat and then proceed to grab hamburger buns to serve people without changing gloves. This is a huge health risk, and it’s lucky that this kind of careless behavior hasn’t caused serious food poisoning among Eastman students. So what should we do? Go onstrike and eat all of our meals at the River Campus? Honestly, it’s not sounding like a bad idea right now. However, a more practical solution must be reached. It is clear that Eastman students do care about our Dining Center. Even though they are being ignored at an all time high, comment cards are being written more frequently than ever. Meals are the only time when the entire school gets to come together and socialize, and we don’t need the shadow of “bad food” looming over every conversation. The bottom line is, we know we’re not eating at the Ritz, and we’re fine with that. Is it too much to expect that at least a half-hearted attempt at cleaning silverware can be made? Is it too much to expect that Dining Center staffers won’t keep giving me this pathetic look as though the world is running out of milk? Is it too much to expect that the line for Tuesday’s beef stroganoff not feel like an underwater tai-chi class? Is it too much to ask that at least my $11 bowl of cereal not be stale? And most importantly, is it too much to ask that salmonella not be on the list of things Eastman students need to worry about? I hope these demands are reasonable, because I’d really like to go back to talking about how cold it’s going to get. Thanks. Levy can be reached atjlevy@campustimes.org.

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