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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

To the new Dining Hall

Hello readers.

Many of you, I'm sure, have had a chance to eat at the dining hall at least once this year.
--and by eat in the dining hall, I really mean stand in line.

Today, unfortunately, was a bit of a --pardon the phrase--clusterfuck of ill planning. Particularly during the 12:30pm  lunch period. I will optimistically assume that it was just because they were unaware of what a crowd it would be, but let's get serious: MWF lunches at that time have been overcrowded for years.

Well, anyway, rather than waiting for changes to be made without any of my input, I decided to give some feedback to the dining hall. I really hope they don't hate me for it, but if they do, then hey: that's my life.

Here's the letter I wrote. I figured some of my readers might enjoy it.
"This is my fourth year at HSC, so I've had plenty experience with the dining hall under the dark reign of Aramark. I was pleased to learn that my senior year would be ruled over by a new service, and looked forward to this prospect. My first few days back, too, before classes started, I was pleased with what I saw: Fresh, tasty food (food which actually looked like food), a clean tasteful atmosphere, and attractive presentation. 

I was a bit skeptical, though. Despite how much I enjoyed those first couple of days, I had a horrible suspicion dwelling in the pit of my stomach--I quickly realized that all of these attractive features of a dining hall came at a price: speed. In olden days, all that was required was a quick plate-bun-patty-bun-fries maneuver to get food out to the waiting students. Now, however, it seems like the food has yet to be cooked, and THEN must be plated neatly and fashionably in a paper-lined basket before it can be placed under the heat lamps for the students to grab.

Now, I appreciate that you at least appear to care about what food is being served to us students, but I find myself in a bind. I am a very busy student (it IS my senior year, after all), and I am on a tight schedule. While I was in the dining hall today, I waited ten minutes before any food even appeared at the grill station (only one of the stations plagued by this catastrophe), and when this basket of food was taken, it was a good five minutes more before another basket showed up. Since I was in a rush, I just grabbed some pizza, ate it, and left. This tiny meal is not really enough to feed me on a good day, and it has not been a good day. 

My feedback, then, is this: please do not sacrifice speed for presentation. Our HSC dining hall isn't really a restaurant and has never been the greatest food on the planet, but at least it has fed us with time to spare so that we may continue on our way. I have high hopes that service will improve as time progresses, but I felt the need to say something now, anyway. Just keep in mind that great food and great presentation mean nothing to us if we are not able to obtain the food due to long lines.

I really do appreciate everything, though, and hope that my feedback doesn't seem too negative.

Here's hoping for a great year, 
Walter McCoy, Class of 2013"

I just sent this off, so hopefully we'll see some changes soon. In the meantime, if you feel as passionately as I do about not  dying of starvation, feel free to send the dining hall some feedback about their performance! CLICK HERE to do so.

Stay Strong, readers!
--Your Editor

So, recently my blog was linked to on a Fox News article titled "Worst colleges for foodies." I'm not terribly bothered by the fact that they linked to my material without considering asking me about the article or whatever, but I am a bit perturbed at the way they paint the picture. Fox News based their ratings on the Princeton Review (without actually linking a source, mind you), which was published in August. According to Fox News, the Princeton Review ranked Hampden-Sydney the #4 worst college for food in the country. What Fox News didn't mention or point out, though, is that the Princeton Review published in August was a review of last year's dining service. While their article does point out that we changed from Aramark to Thompson Hospitality, they never once make a point to acknowledge that the review does not speak for this year's food service quality.

That being said, the article drew a LOT of attention to my blog (over 500 hits in a single day!). Unfortunately, this commotion also started on the same day where I posted an article about the recent hate crime on campus, an article which, sadly, isn't being read nearly as much as this unimportant one about food. Additionally, the publicity reflected negatively on the dining hall itself, and to the people running it. I personally feel at fault, too, for having not updated this article at all.

Anyway, the day this all started, I got a text message from Darryl Rudge, the director of Thompson Hospitality. He asked if he could speak with me about my dining experience during the year. Of course, I immediately felt guilty--the only reason he would think to contact me is if he had read my article. Well I spoke with him, and we had a good conversation about the things that I thought were really done well. I also told him that I was planning to update this entry (which I am doing now).

The point of this update, then, is really to provide an update of how I have experienced the changes in the food service. Since I wrote the last article, my main complaint (the long lines) has essentially vanished. I hardly ever end up waiting in lines anymore. Additionally, they've managed to cut the time waiting in lines without sacrificing the presentability of the food. The food is well cooked, looks great, tastes fantastic, and is something that I would gladly wait for if I even still had to wait for it. The staff is great, and I actually enjoy eating in there now (something I couldn't really say about Aramark).

Mr. Rudge also seemed really interested about what I had to say about how the service compared to the service under what I referred to as the "Dark Reign of Aramark." I told him that Aramark had a very assembly-line approach to service: the food was in "buckets", (which was really the only word I could come up with), the staff was often disinterested and unfriendly (with some exceptions, of course), and food was rarely palatable. Since Thompson Hospitality took over, I can't even imagine referring to the dining hall as "The Moans" anymore.

To conclude, I just want to make it clear that the dining service this year is actually rather fantastic, and I think Fox News is less so. Thanks for reading!!

--Your Editor.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Orientation: Day 1

Welcome back to the start of a grand new school year. The rain came down in sheets, the dopey looks on the faces of the new flock brought something that resembled joy to my heart, and I even got a chance to speak/otherwise corrupt the masses. Today I spoke at the alcohol awareness/substance abuse presentation called "Molecules that Monkey with your Mind". As usual the presentation was fantastic. To no surprise, the most audience-receptive parts of the presentation were the parts involving sex or a monkey video--good to see HSC still thrives at what it's good at.

God I sound cynical.

Anyway, As I said, I got the chance to speak, and I promised some people that I would share my little speech on the site. Unfortunately I didn't print out what I read, so I just winged it. My delivery, according to my roommate's brother was "not perfect, but not terrible." I'm just going to copy what I wrote in this post: it has the same meaning and is just better worded. Besides, I can't even remember what I actually said. So here it is:

Ya know, they told us we should keep these stories concise and to the point, and that we should avoid rambling. Well I’m awful at both of those, so I just wrote down what I have to say. My name is Walter McCoy. Some know me as “Flash”. I’m a senior here, English Major, double minor in theatre and creative writing. When Shawn [White] suggested that I give my story, it was with the idea that I would represent the “Independent” type of student. I don’t really agree with that though, and here’s why: My freshman year was rough. I was shy. I wasn’t very good at making friends. I became very susceptible to bullying. By the end of my first semester I had dealt with the same types of immature bullying that you would expect from high schoolers. My second semester was much better, and by the end I had even had a paper vandalized with hateful messages. I almost didn’t come back, and I think that’s probably understandable. I did come back, though, and that’s because, despite the bullying I’d received, I still managed to make a few friends. My freshman year taught me that although I was a bit of a misfit nerd that didn’t drink, I could still find a niche. My sophomore year, I decided to do something to change my Hampden-Sydney experience. I talked to Shawn [White] and got started with The Student Network, which we just called “The Mentor Program” at the time. The idea was that I could prevent new students from having the same experience as me. The take-away message that I want to leave for you guys right now is this: look around you. Hampden-Sydney has this big stigma about how it is an all-male school with a whole bunch of people who are just like one another. The truth though is that, despite your similarities, each of you are individual, independent students. The best piece of advice that I can give is that you should always remember who you are. It sounds cheesy, I know, but seriously: don’t change who you are or act differently just because you want to fit a stigma. Just because HSC is known to be a drinking college, it doesn’t mean you have to drink all the time. Just because guys here will occasionally use certain substances, it doesn’t mean that you need to do so to fit in. I stand here now—a student here for four years, a nerd, perpetually broke, non-athletic, gay—and I think I manage to fit in here just as well as anyone else can. If you ever need someone to talk to you or help you, I will help you no matter who you are; even if we’re from completely different walks of life. That’s what the student network is about: We are all different, but we are all still a part of the same student body, the same network of students. Thank you.
Well that's the gist of my "Speech to the Freshmen". There were some receptive laughs when I mentioned the  fact that I wasn't straight, but whatever. I do what I want. Plus, I'm a senior now, so I really just ready to lay the beat down on anyone who tries to give me any shit this year...In a completely metaphorical sense, of course.

That's all I got for today. Will post more later!

--Your Editor