Resident Students Disagree with Vodra Café Meal Policy

–By Ladiyah Beachum

Resident students at NJCU campus loath the eating policy at Vodra Dining Room also known as “Vodra Cafe” located in the Vodra Hall building. The cafe is mandated for dorm student’s daily use.

Many students complain about the hours in which the café is accessible to them and the choices of food servings that are given every week. Resident students think they should be granted the opportunity to also eat at GSUB Café “Gourmet Dining” located in the Student Union building when Vodra is inaccessible.

NJCU senior resident student, Jordan Freels, 22, English Major of Maplewood said, “The main concern with Vodra Café is the hours. A lot of dorm students don’t have classes until later at night. The issue comes in when a student may not have a vehicle to get something to eat, or they are low on cash.”

Resident students are inconvenienced and expected to go off campus to get food after hours when food restaurants are either closed or too far in distance.

Julie Aiello, Manager/Director of Dining Services for Gourmet Dining said, “We have worked together with Residence Life and the NJCU administration to determine the hours of operation for all dining locations.” “We have adjusted the hours to open later in Vodra during the week, as requested by Residence Life last semester. We are open until 8:30 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays and until 9 p.m. on Wednesdays.”

“If the old meal plans was put into effect it would make things easier for dorm students because we would have both options, Vodra and GSUB. We would be able to eat at reasonable hours instead of vouching on our own; wasting money,” said Freels.

One of the reasons why Vodra hours are adjusted the way they are is due to its central location. The students are required to pay a one-time flat fee of $1,858.44 which is for the semester and a base rate of $5,216 for every semester which includes housing and meals combined.

“The school created a space for the resident students,” said Tamar Lawson, Director for Residence Life of Jersey City. “The meal plan base rate will cost more if they stay open later. Students can add flex dollars to their plan so they can eat in GSUB or within Starbucks.”

This is one reason why Vodra’s hours are adjusted the way they are. A minority of NJCU students are affected by these actions.

According to Residence Life webpage on NJCU’s website, “While the majority of New Jersey City University’s students commute, there is a thriving community of approximately 260 residents living in three residence halls.”

Officials think the hourly arrangements for the GSUB and Vodra Café are suitable to fit the needs and schedules of the students. “The meal plans are only available at Vodra Café because that is the location where we have designed the program for the meal plan” said Aiello.

“Gourmet Dining came to NJCU with a focus to improve resident dining by remodeling the Vodra Dining Hall to create and have a nicer atmosphere where we could offer our full program of make your own and full-service stations, with a much better value for residents.”

NJCU resident students want longer access to the GSUB Café so they can have healthier servings of food throughout the week. At the Vodra Café, students complain about being served fried unhealthy foods on a day to day basis.

“I’m an athlete. Here everything is fried. You can only eat salads but so much. The menus aren’t consistent and it seems very improvised,” said Jessica Chandler, NJCU resident student, 21, Fire Science Major from Arizona.

“We prepare several hot items fresh daily, including a fresh pasta, vegetarian or vegan dish, a vegetable side, a starch side, a protein and a carved item (like rotisserie chicken or baked ham) everyday, in addition to two hot soups and fresh pizza. In addition to those items, we have the salad bar with fresh greens, vegetables and prepared salads” said Aiello.

It is difficult for resident students to eat with their commuter friends due to the high prices of meals for commuters without meal plans. “I have friends who don’t have a meal plan so I can’t eat with them. It’s kind of a big deal. Eating is a social activity,” said Chandler.

If students are not on a meal plan, they have to pay full price, which is $11 for the all you can eat buffet at Vodra. Vodra Café is the only place that dorm students can use their meal plan.

“Gourmet Dining has brought a resident-focused dining to NJCU that also serves as a dining facility for the entire campus community to join on an a la carte basis,” said Aiello.