Buffet Under Fire

Thurgood Marshall College Senators Mariko Kuga and Dalena Nguyen are organizing a petition protesting Ocean View Terrace’s status as a buffet.

The idea for a petition came when the senators heard numerous complaints from students about buffet-style OVT during fall quarter. They brought this feedback to A.S. President Meggie Le, who then relayed these concerns to Housing, Dining and Hospitality (HDH).

“[Le] went to the HDH office and voiced these concerns of the students that they don’t really like OVT, and HDH basically said they haven’t gotten any feedback about it so they assume it’s going fine,” Kuga said.

After hearing this, the senators sought out student opinion on the all-you-can-eat service at the dining hall.

“Dalena and I figured, as Marshall senators, we’re supposed to be representing Marshall ideals,” Kuga said. “So we decided to start gaining official feedback: we put up a Facebook status to get feedback, and we had office hours, and we talked to some people wandering around to see how they like OVT.”

The senators started writing a petition because the feedback collected from students on Facebook and the senators’ office hours were primarily of discontent. The general contents of the petition, which is not yet available, will highlight many students’ dislike for the buffet-style OVT and criticize HDH for not seeking student approval on a major project like OVT.

“If HDH had come to Marshall Council or had the HDH rep for Marshall notified about the buffet style, we would have tried to get feedback from students and gauge it to see how it would go by,” Kuga said. “But we were never notified; we only found out about the buffet style over the summer, and it just went downhill from there.”

According to Kuga, students have said that prices are so inflated that purchasing two meals a day is unaffordable. Despite these heightened prices, the food itself is disappointing. Additionally, students complained the flat-rate prices do not account for varying diets, and as a result, lines are longer, and product variety has been compromised at Goody’s Place and Market. Students also feel that the once social, meeting and studying environment at OVT is now exclusive because they must pay to enter.

“There should never be a buffet style if the quality is not being heightened,” Nguyen said. “Also, if you look at other [Universities of California] like UCLA where they have buffets too, our prices are a lot more expensive, but people aren’t satisfied with it.”

At other UC campuses like UCLA and UC Santa Barbara, students are given a preset number of meals a week with unlimited buffet-style dining, while UCSD students pay per individual item using Dining Dollars.

The petition was authored over Thanksgiving break and after undergoing checks by members of the A.S. Council and Thurgood Marshall College Student Council, will be publicized around campus.

This is the first year that OVT has operated as an all-you-can-eat buffet as opposed to an a la carte dining hall, as it was in previous years. Thurgood Marshall College Student Council HDH Representative Andy Gee explained that OVT is an experiment for future HDH plans.

“What I know from HDH is OVT is supposed to be to see how all-you-can-eat works with students; they’re going to change it back, but probably move the buffet to Plaza,” Gee said.

If OVT is a success for HDH, Gee added that Plaza Cafe in Revelle College will most likely be renovated over the summer to accommodate for a buffet dining style.

“They want to make sure that if they renovate it to make it all-you-can-eat, it works,” he said.

Nguyen said this does not change plans for the petition.

“[The petition] might help them realize that actually outreaching to the students that are going to [be] affected by the dining halls and pay for this service instead of implementing it during the summer with no student voice [and] will be detrimental to HDH and the way students perceive living on campus,” she said.

The senators hope to collect around 500 signatures; while the petition will be open to all students, a focus will be placed particularly on Marshall residents who have limited off-campus resources and have to use Dining Dollars. If more than 500 signatures are not obtained within two weeks of campaigning, the Marshall senators will not send the petition to HDH. However, if successful, the senators hope HDH will take it into consideration by the 2013–2014 school year.

OVT contact James Johnson was unavailable for comment.