JSU approves new dining hall, mandatory commuter meal plans

Tony Smoke, pictured right, a JSU trustee, gathered with other trustees in the Jack Hopper Dining Hall to meet with students. (Grace Cockrell/JSU)Tony Smoke, pictured right, a JSU trustee, gathered with other trustees in the Jack Hopper Dining Hall to meet with students. (Grace Cockrell/JSU)

James Waller, News Correspondent

In the Board of Trustees quarterly meeting where John Beehler was terminated as president, a new contract to build a $26 million dining hall and required $275 per semester commuter meal plan passed.

With no opposition, the board renewed their contract with Sodexo, a food services and facility management company headquartered in France. The board authorized James Brigham, as VP of Finance and Administration, to sign and execute the final contract.

“Dining Services is an integral component to campus life, recruitment and retention,” read the Sodexo food service proposal from the Board of Trustees. “As part of this contract renewal, it is the Administration’s intent to improve both the quality of food and food facilities for our students.”


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As of August 1, 2019, JSU’s contract with Sodexo came up for renewal. Three of the nation’s leading food services were invited to give JSU proposals for contracts: Chartwell, Aramark and Sodexo. Chartwell declined to offer a proposal. Aramark has previously looked over JSU facilities and met with students, but asked for a year’s postponement of the selection to consider. The board of trustees rejected Aramark’s postponement request, feeling that it would not be in the best interests of the student body to delay the decision. Sodexo was selected, as Sodexo was the only food service candidate of those three to have sent in a proposal.

Commuting students will be required to purchase a $275 meal plan moving forward with the new contract. The university has come under fire for this new requirement from many students who argue the cost of attending JSU is already expensive as it is.

Proposed Dining Hall

Pictured is a proposed design for the new dining hall facility. (Courtesy of JSU)

“Half the reason I am a commuter is because I can’t afford to live on campus or a meal plan,” said Abby Cruse, a JSU student on Facebook.

Some students have said that the university should focus on tornado-related repairs before building a new dining hall.

“There are other issues that could be taken care of before we start another building,” said Matthew Reeves, a music education student at JSU. “Merrill Hall hasn’t even begun construction and we’re already planning another building.

Reeves said that, as a commuter, he doesn’t want to be forced to spend more money at university dining options and would prefer eating at home to save money.

“Personally, I can’t afford to eat out every single day, and that’s exactly what this meal plan would require me to do,” said Reeves. “Forcing students to pay for something they don’t want is extortion, which seems to be what this university is best at.”

As part of Sodexo’s proposal and contract, JSU is required to pay for $20 million out of the $26 million construction costs of the new dining hall. This new dining hall will be placed behind Curtiss Hall, where a commuter parking lot currently is.

Some of the retail stores on campus are to be enhanced to support the mandatory commuter plan. Jazzman’s café in the library is to be fully renovated and given an expanded menu. Mama Goldberg’s and Wow Café will also feature expanded menus and modifications to create a more student-centric space. Other retail enhancements will be made to Einstein’s in the Stephenson center, the Grid Community store to the JSU visitor center and Boar’s Head deli.

Updated: 10/25/19, 9:22 a.m. CST

A petition called ‘Fix the old buildings first before adding a new one’ was created by JSU student Hannah Robinson and has received over 900 signatures since its creation on Thursday, October 24 around 2:30 p.m.

The petition calls for the “creation of more parking space, and to fix the buildings that have long been destroyed BEFORE the new dining hall”.

Other business

  • The provost, Dr. Christie Shelton, announced a $300,000 grant from the Department of Justice 
  • The Board of Trustees gave recognition to both Thomas Dedrick and Jim Folsom Jr., and named Folsom Jr. a trustee emeritus.
  • The Board of Trustees approved an annual compliance letter from the National Collegiate Athletic Association
  • The Board of Trustees bestowed honorary doctorate degrees to Todd Jones, former Major League Baseball player, and Bill “Bubba” Bussey, co-host of the Rick and Bubba show.
  • The Board of Trustees approved a new degree plan for a master of science in geographical information science and technology.
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