Photo description: Patrick O’Brien, Director of Dining Services at CUNE, speaks at a Student Senate open forum concerning swipe boxes.
Photo credit: Kayla Korb
Chartwells’ Director of Dining Services Patrick O’Brien told the Student Senate on Tuesday about plans for a new SwipePlus program next year, similar to the discontinued Dog House swipe box program.
The Dog House swipe box program, which Student Senate members discussed reinstating last semester, offered a six-item menu for purchase at the Dog House Grill with a meal swipe rather than dining dollars. This program was discontinued two years ago partly due to budget concerns.
O’Brien said the new SwipePlus program would not be a full meal-exchange program, but the value of a meal swipe would be deducted from the cost of an item in the Dog House.
“Let’s say a chicken Caesar salad, for example,” O’Brien said. “We value that at $7 and we value a meal swipe at $5, so it’ll be a meal swipe plus $2 of dining dollars. That would allow you to get something of value a little bit different, fresh, and on-the-go if you need to be able to get something to go.”
O’Brien said the SwipePlus program will initially be used for cold items in the Dog House, such as specialty salads, wraps and sandwiches.
O’Brien also addressed the dining services as a whole, capturing the Senate’s attention with his stark honesty and acknowledgment of the current dining program’s flaws.
“That’s (what) I want to talk about tonight: the food at Concordia,” he said. “It’s pretty bad.”
O’Brien said he aims to “break monotony,” using new foods and ingredients without taking away existing options.
“From a residential dining standpoint, anything that I’m talking about is in addition to what we already do,” said O’Brien. “I’m not a believer in taking things away, but just making things a little bit more creative, a little more innovative.”
Changes posed by O’Brien included an extended salad bar, more fresh fruit, a self-service sandwich line, and made-to-order eggs and omelets. He also said he wants to have all existing dining stations open throughout the week for the greatest amount of variety.
O’Brien acknowledged that picky eaters may not enjoy the different foods he plans to incorporate, but said he will not take away any existing options. “There’s still gonna be those comfort foods that you recognize,” he said.
O’Brien emphasized his belief in hearing students’ opinions and allowing them to be involved in the creation of Chartwells’ menu. “It’s really about building a program that’s about you all and having you more involved in all the decisions of the menus,” he said.
O’Brien said he wants to attend Senate meetings and allow members to suggest menu items for the dining hall and the Dog House Grill.
“I’d like to be more involved in the Student Senate meetings so that you all can help build our rotation,” he said. “I want you to have the first-hand ability to come to me and say, ‘Hey, I’d like to see XYZ with our program’ and then see it implemented.”
O’Brien encouraged students to reach out to him to share suggestions or feedback via the Chartwells’ Instagram account @chartwells_cune. “Send a message to the Chartwells’ Instagram,” he said. “I’m watching that like a hawk.”
O’Brien also said he wants students to feel comfortable sharing their opinions so he can make the best dining program possible. “Feel free to just come into the office and say, ‘Hey, the pizza sucks today, what’s up?’ and I’ll take a look at it,” he added.
O’Brien began working at Concordia in March after 13 years of experience in university food service. He is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and has three pro-chef graduate-level certifications.
Student Activities Fair
Senate members discussed relocating the Student Activities Fair for the coming fall semester to allow club booths more space for interactive opportunities.
Elise Ullestad and Victoria Perry suggested moving the Activities Fair to the quad and said it would allow the booths to be more interactive.
Nathaniel Mars said that the issue with interaction is due to a lack of club involvement rather than space. Mars said that even if clubs have ideas for more exciting or interactive booths, the problem is getting them organized so early in the semester.
“The issue you might run into logistically is trying to get clubs up and running,” Mars said. “It’s kind of tricky since it’s the first week of school.”
President Julia Witt said it is the responsibility of each club to utilize what space they have and make their booths as interactive as they choose.
“You can look into adding space, but I think at that point it’s up to your club whether you want to be interactive or not,” said Witt. “There’s nothing saying all you can do at the Student Activities Fair is have a piece of paper where people sign up.”
Emma VanTol suggested moving the Activities Fair to the indoor track to give clubs extra space. She also said that few non-athletes would visit the indoor track otherwise, whereas most students would be familiar with the Cattle Conference Room.
“It’s a cooler venue in general but also it would allow the space for people to have their cornhole tournaments or (other) fun things to do,” said VanTol.
The Senate will discuss the possible relocation of the Student Activities Fair with the Student Life Office in advance of the new semester.