As construction nears completion, the students and faculty of Niagara University can now use the expansion of Clet Dining Commons. After a semester’s worth of use, the new dining facility has demonstrated itself to be far superior to the previous one, much to the benefit of those who regularly eat there. Of course, it hasn’t always been in this state.
Looking back at the dining facility as it was two years ago, the expansion and modernization of Clet Dining Commons had already begun, but the interior continued to feel outdated. Torn cushions, grease stains, and drips of water from the ceiling made up the least of students’ concerns upon entering. When the dishwasher broke down, students had to pick up plastic plates as they waited in lines to be served food (due to the permanent shortage of pizza). As paper cups ran out, people would begin filling coffee mugs and other inappropriate beverage vessels with soda and chocolate milk – if there was any. Also in short supply was seating, as students could be seen looking around the densely packed cafeteria for an empty seat.
“The dining commons definitely needed to be improved,” said Sophomore Ally Simons, “it was dull and had nothing exciting.”
Junior Tohme Abounader claimed “It was a shame, even embarrassing. The Dining Commons looked like a soup kitchen. And I had to pay $40,000 for it.”
Mark Soos, supervisor of the Metz kitchen, said “It was old and outdated, making it difficult to serve efficiently.”
In response to the myriad of inadequacies, the students of Niagara University made their dissatisfaction with the state of the dining commons heard. Week after week students submitted comments expressing what they desired, as the NUSGA committee partnered with Metz to discuss the future renovation.
Today, it is clear these demands were not ignored. Now that the expansion has been opened, there are additional seating options. The renovated dining commons feels more upscale and inviting according to Simons. Soos spoke for this as well, while also mentioning the better selection of food for longer periods of time. In fact, the bakery has increased in size tenfold, helping the kitchen avoid the shoddiness of the former dining commons’ service.
Junior Sofia Castro said “I like that dirty dishes now go to the corner. Plus, the new colors and lights are cool.”
However, the renovation did come with a cost. To the dismay of some students, a “modest tuition increase,” in the words of President James J. Maher, “of 3.5 percent for the 2016-2017 fiscal year” was approved by the Board of Trustees in order to help compensate for the cost of the project. While some students were upset by the hike on their tuitions, others found the tuition increase to be fair. Both Simons and Castro said they ultimately support the increase, as prices for secondary education are rising everywhere and now more people can use the dining commons.
Abounader, on the other hand, disagreed with this sentiment. “For many students the renovation has no effect as they do not have meal plans,” said Abounader. “In effect, their increased tuitions fail to directly benefit them.”
Christy Ferguson, director of contract services and risk management, said “We try not to tag on university costs to student expenses.” However, as Abounader pointed out, “Students don’t know how the finance is budgeted,” highlighting the disconnect between administration and student life. Ultimately, he wished students could have a say in where money is allocated.
Even though this project is just nearing completion, it is readily apparent there is plenty more work that ought to be done around campus.
Speaking with those who will not enjoy the benefits of the new dining commons in mind, Abounader said “there’s stuff that needs far more attention, the bathrooms are in a shameful state everywhere on campus and the residence halls seem to be stuck in the 50’s.”
Moving from the old to the new, the students and faculty of Niagara University appreciate the revamped dining facility. With the expansion now open til 2 a.m. along with the recently installed theater screen, quality of life has improved on campus. Students hope that the recent changes to Clet Dining Commons is a sign of future renovations to come.