Recently, JCU Dining decided to revise its policy on use of The Underground for student dining. The Underground is a lounge area next to the Schott Dining Hall with new furniture, television sets and game tables.
Currently, many students take advantage of the easy flow between these spaces to help themselves to food they haven’t paid for. They do this by taking other peoples’ dirty plates into the dining hall and claiming that they are getting seconds when in reality they never paid for a meal in the first place.
To address this problem, starting next semester JCU Dining will require students to use take-out boxes in order to eat their meals in The Underground. Students can fill the boxes with as much as they can fit, but will no longer be allowed back into the Dining Hall for more food once they have left.
This new policy is a bad decision by the Schott Dining Hall. As it stands, the dining hall is already pressed for space, and The Underground has been a great place for overflow students.
JCU Dining should continue to allow students to eat there just as they would with their current meal swipes, with free entry into and out of the cafeteria. To prevent students from stealing food, there are several options that would preserve the students’ right to use The Underground for dining.
One solution pitched by a student was using a stamp to indicate who has purchased a meal. This would allow the dining hall staff to see who has already been in the cafeteria and should be re-admitted.
Another option JCU Dining has is installing a turnstile on the exit. This would force students to enter on the left side and pass the dining staff responsible for checking students in.
An addendum to this option is implementing a collateral program. The students who wish to eat in The Underground will leave their student IDs at the desk until they are finished with their meals, at which point they would get it back. This program is already being used by CSS to hold students accountable for the vans they take out and has proven successful.
If the University wants The Underground to have a more welcoming environment, they cannot strip it of one of its primary purposes. As it stands, many students who do not want to deal with the mayhem of the Dining Hall during rush hours go to The Underground for a different atmosphere.
The University has made many positive changes to The Underground, and the results of them are already being seen. But if JCU Dining makes it impractical for students to use it for dining, they will be less likely to go to it for other purposes, and the recent additions will be made pointless.