North Haven students are unhappy with dining hall closure

Emily Flamme and Melina Khan

Quinnipiac University’s North Haven campus students are petitioning for the administration to refund their remaining fall 2020 semester meal plans after the campus’s only dining hall shut down on Oct. 5.

“These are based on a 70% reduction in customer usage in North Haven, coupled with 70% of our purchases being made through our Outtakes program,” according to an email from Tom Ellett, chief experience officer.

The North Haven campus is home to the university’s undergraduate and graduate programs in medicine, law, nursing, health sciences and education. Students who only go to the North Haven campus are required to purchase a meal plan, which is $185 this semester.

Third-year law student Jill Durso created a petition on Oct. 23, calling for a refund for the remaining meal plan money as well as the choice to opt out of mandatory meal plans for the spring 2021 semester.

The petition has amassed over 100 signatures from law students, alumni and community members.

When the dining hall shut down, Durso said she waited to contact the university until she saw how Outtakes, a self-service snack stand open in place of the dining hall, was operating.

“Just for reference, Outtakes is really small, they don’t want more than two people in it,” Durso said. “That was like the first thing that jumped out at me — that no one was following any of the (COVID-19) guidelines that were posted.”

After that, she said she made a post in her GroupMe chat with other law students to ask if they agreed that they should receive a refund for North Haven dining hall closure.

“I had so many people reach out and say they felt the same way,” Durso said. “That’s when I encouraged students to write in, and that’s when we decided to write up the petition to hopefully show how many people feel the same way.”

The petition states that the decision to close the dining hall “was not discussed with North Haven Campus administrators, faculty or students.” It also calls Outtakes “an insufficient option to continue mandatory meal plans.”

The petition also shared COVID-19 related safety concerns with Outtakes, stating “the occupancy limits and social distancing guidelines (are) violated on a daily basis, including violations by (Chartwells’) own staff.” Sanitization concerns given the self-service nature of the stand were noted.

Alison Fonseca, a third-year law student, said Quinnipiac should issue meal plan refunds to students who want it.

“It doesn’t make sense to shut down something that we’re requiring students to use,” Fonseca said.

The refund would give students $185, which Durso said she recognized was a small amount to argue over.

“In the grand scheme of life, it’s not a huge amount, but that’s kind of our position with the university,” Durso said. “Like it can’t be that much money that they can’t justify a refund. On the student side, that money can feed me, and I can eat food I actually want.”

Fonseca also said that Outtakes is not an adequate dining hall substitute given that meals are not being prepared fresh.

“To be asking students to be paying the amount of money that they are paying per semester for a meal plan, quick, on-the-go food isn’t a meal,” Fonseca said.

Fonseca, who is also vice president of the Student Bar Association (SBA), said issues like this one are why she joined SBA, so she is glad to see other students voicing their concerns.

Sarah Markham, third-year law student said she has thought of different solutions for this problem, including reimbursement in the form of a bookstore credit.

She also said she thinks in the future, the university should consider a contract with a franchise like they have with Starbucks and Au Bon Pain on the main campus.

“If they had one of those, I think it would benefit the students and the school, because the school wouldn’t have to worry about staffing it and dealing with it and students would be more likely to use it and spend money on it,” Markham said.

Both Fonseca and Markham expressed displeasure at the meal plan requirement for students who only go to the North Haven campus.

“Especially with graduate students, none of us live on campus, so we don’t use the meal plan, and a lot of us have apartments, and we live at home, so people have their families, and we cook meals,” Fonseca said.

Fonseca and Markham both also said the COVID-19 related safety concerns expressed in the petition are not necessarily strong arguments.

“It’s no different from going to a grocery store, anybody could be touching the stuff you’re buying,” Markham said.

Both students are remaining hopeful that the university will address the issue.

“With the overwhelming amount of students who have these concerns I think and I would hope that they would (respond),” Fonseca said.