Controversies over Student Cafeteria

김서연, 이채현, 강민영, 김주연l승인2022.05.12l수정2022.05.12 12:54l394호 1면

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   As Dankook University (DKU) announces a policy to return to face-to-face classes this semester, the campus is being revitalized by many Dankookians (students of DKU) returning to school. At the same time, the student cafeteria at the Jukjeon campus changed its management corporation, and the student cafeteria at the Cheonan campus, which has been closed, reopened with the return to school. While expecting to have a proper meal between busy schedules, complaints about the student cafeteria management have instead been raised at both the Jukjeon and Cheonan campuses.

   At the Jukjeon Campus, there’s a student cafeteria on the first floor of Hyedang Hall, a faculty cafeteria on the 7th floor of the Graduate School Building, and a residence hall cafeteria on the first basement level of Woongbi Hall. For now, only the student cafeteria is running and its operating hours are limited to lunch time, between 11:00 and 14:00. The hours are inconvenient for students that aren’t free during that time. Students are also complaining that pork cutlets are being severed more often than other menu items, and the meals are more expensive, while the quality is lower than before.

▲ Only the student cafeteria is running at the Jukjeon Campus. (Photo from DKU)

   At the Cheonan Campus, there’s a student cafeteria and a faculty cafeteria on the third and fourth floors of the Student Union building and a residence hall cafeteria, which isn’t running for now, on the first floor of Danwoo Hall. Here the students are complaining about the poor management of the cafeteria. Dankookians expect to save time by eating on campus, but are finding instead, it takes too long for the food to be served. Some ended up asking for a refund in order to get to their next class. Those who couldn’t get refunded, resold their meal tickets on the school community website. Students are also complaining about the price and the quality of the food. According to the university’s website, the price of an average meal at the student cafeteria at Chungang University is 3,200 won, 3,700~5,500 won at Kookmin University, and 2,500~4,400 won at Konkuk University, while DKU sells meals for 5,000~5,500won. Moreover, food hygiene was raised as an issue. There were several posts on the community page complaining of foreign objects in their soup and having to use dishes and spoons that weren’t properly cleaned. Students also complained that the food was not served in the correct order and there were mistakes with the food requested.

▲ Dankookians who don't have no more time to wait for their meal are selling their tickets on the school community application. (Photo from Everytime)

   Oh You-bin, a student of the Dept. of Public Administration at the Jukjeon Campus, mentioned ‘the fast service of meals’ and ‘the open space’ as advantages of the Jukjeon Campus cafeteria. She said, “When I did not have enough time to eat, their cooked meals helped me save time. Also, the open space of the seating area helped relieve my anxiety of contracting COVID-19.” On the other hand, she expressed regret about the quality of the food. She said some meals are too cold and there is no choice of food, since only one menu item is provided every day. She said, “Toppings or ingredients used yesterday are also served today. These make me tired of school cafeteria meals. I think the current price is very expensive compared to the quality of these predictable foods.” Lee Ho-kyung, a student in the Dept. of English at the Cheonan Campus, also picked the school cafeteria’s wide space as an advantage. She said, “The wide and pleasant environment lets me enjoy my meal by myself in peace.” However, she signaled her dissatisfaction with the long waiting time. It is because, unlike Jukjeon Campus, the Cheonan Campus cafeteria makes a dish fresh when an order is taken. “While this is preferable, I once threw away my entire meal because I didn’t have enough time to eat.” She also complained about the irregular menu. The dishes offered on the side menu are not the same every day, so it is confusing.

   Both students interviewed were satisfied with the school cafeteria’s pleasant environment and useful facilities, but requested some improvements be made to the meal quality. Dankookians are always calling for more staff to be hired to help reduce the wait time for meals and to help kitchen staff prepare freshly cooked lunches. Additionally, they assert that there should be a balance between the price and quality of each meal.

   The Dankook Herald (DKH) interviewed cafeteria management at each campus to find out more about the problems raised by the students. When asked about the short opening hours, the Jukjeon campus management corporation La Matinee answered, “Demand for cafeteria food, plummeted during online classes. The number of customers declined to no more than 150 a day. To normalize our operations, we decided to shorten the opening time. Currently, we have started to serve breakfast in addition to the lunch operating hours. Additional opening times may be added depending on the active use of students in the near future.” About Dankookians’ dissatisfaction with the quality and variety of meals, the official explained that the available workforce and cost have impacted their operations. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, there was a large decrease in the workforce and grocery costs increased by an average of 40 percent due to rising international oil prices and distribution costs. The decrease in the workforce led to a decrease in the number of menu options. To recover from the situation, the minimum number of visitors will have to increase by over 80% of the customers we saw before COVID-19 per day, considering salaries and operating costs. Also, the management guesses that student complaints about the quality of meals stemmed from using semi-cooked and processed meals to contain costs because of the increase in grocery prices.

   When asked about the long wait times, a representative from the cafeteria at the Cheonan campus answered that it was because of inexperienced new workers learning their jobs at the beginning of the semester. They also said that the cafeteria is refunding students who can’t have lunch due to the long waiting time. With regards to complaints about randomly served meals, they said it is because the cooking time required varies from menu item to menu item. Those who order meals that take longer to prepare have to wait longer. When asked about the complaints of foreign substances found in their food and the unsanitary utensils, the representative replied that they were already aware of the situation and assumed that the substances were a result of the washing and drying process and not from the cooking.

   Representatives at both the Jukjeon and Cheonan campus cafeterias said they are willing to listen to and address complaints raised by Dankookians. Discussions with the student councils, general affairs, and HR team at the Cheonan Campus revealed that they are planning to conduct a student monitoring program so that they can directly listen to problems raised by students and make the necessary improvements, based on the suggestions of Dankookians. Meanwhile, the Jukjeon campus cafeteria management corporation La Matinee, emphasized that more users would make a better cafeteria and recommended Dankookians hang out there with friends or have a club meeting in the space so they can fund needed improvements. The DKH hopes to the right solutions for each cafeteria are found, so that Dankookians can enjoy proper meals and the management corporations can earn sufficient support to fund a better service for all.


김서연, 이채현, 강민영, 김주연  dankookherald@gmail.com
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