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It’s almost 7:30 and the sun is just beginning to set for the night. I rush out of the shower and throw on whatever I have in my locker to wear. Dashing out of the locker room I try to avoid eye contact as I scurry out the door. If I stop to talk to a friend or check my mail I could miss my meal for the night. For at 7:30, the main dining facility and more than half the other on-campus will lock their doors until the next day.
The inadequate dining hours at James Madison University have left students all over campus rushing out of various activities, classes and sports practices to try to get some much needed food and drink. Due to these extremely stringent dining hours, students are not performing as well and the university is missing out on a very profitable resource.
Out of the thirteen dining facilities at James Madison University, only one is open past 8:00 PM throughout the entire week. This sole dining location is PC Dukes located on the ground floor of the Phillips Center (JMU Dining Services). Although it does provide quality food, the quantity you can get here for a punch is minuscule compared to Gibbons Dining Hall. A punch, as referred to by the students, is an equivalent of four dollars. At PC Dukes, this usually means a sandwich and a drink, while at Gibbons Dining Hall food is unlimited.
Dining facilities, especially the main on-campus food facility, Gibbons Dining Hall, need to remain open later to accommodate everyone. By giving students more time to eat, more students would opt for the more costly meal plans and not have to load up on snacks and other items from off campus stores such as Wal-mart. The less students go off campus, the more likely their revenue is to stay in the university. The addition of dining hours would certainly benefit everyone involved in the university.
Some dining locations are open past 8:00 PM several nights of the week on-campus. However, many of these eating facilities are relatively unknown to a large portion of the underclassmen. Most are located under dorms and hidden from the student’s eyes. They are also incapable of holding a large amount of students simply because they don’t have the room.
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Many students, especially freshman, are not accustomed to being told when they can eat. Numerous families in the United States don’t sit down to have dinner until around 8:00 PM when everyone is home from work, practice and various other activities. One of my suitemates, Ben Weintraub, had this to say about the matter, “Having to eat before 7:30 is really new to me. It is hard enough to adjust to the new teaching styles and dorm life, but to be told when I can eat is difficult.” Ben is not the only one who is struggling to understand why the dining facilities are open for such a short period of time during the evening.
Permitting food places on-campus to have longer hours, the ever prevalent problems of finding a place to sit and lines out the door would be greatly reduced. Many students, especially upper classmen, try to avoid places like Gibbons Hall (D-Hall as referred to by the students) simply because they don’t want to fight the crowds. Their money often goes to some place off campus where they can get a quick meal without the hassle.
By adding to the hours, upper classmen are more likely to purchase meal plans. This includes both on-campus and off-campus students because the extra hours would make it much more reasonable for their schedules. Once again, this will bring increased revenue to the university. Freshmen however, are more apt to just wait in line because they have no car to get off campus whenever desired. Even though the bus system at James Madison is very flexible about getting off-campus, it is often difficult to find the time to get a meal during the week.
Increasing the hours would also decrease the usage of illegal cooking devices in the dorms. These items include Hot Pots and George Foreman Grills, which are very popular among college students. Altougth not permitted, many students take the risk of being caught so they can eat when they desire. As a side result of keeping the food facilities open longer, fire and hazardous situation would become much less frequent on-campus due to the lack of desire for these illegal items.
There are also a few setbacks of increasing the hours dining facilities. The cost of board for students would undoubtedly rise. However, the university would have to hire more people, whether they are students or non-students, decreasing the unemployment rate in the surrounding area. Some also argue that kids will procrastinate their eating time until right before the facilities close.
The major issue of nourishment is essential in life and most especially college life. It is proven that students with proper eating habits will learn better and are more likely to stay healthier. With more times suitable for students to eat, the possibility of getting sick due to mal-nutrition is greatly reduced. The Health and Human Services building would appreciate the resulting decline in student illness and be able to focus more on each student’s illness.
Various bad eating habits initiate during the years at college. Through an ongoing study by Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, approximately 66 percent of all college students do not meet the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. Their research also shows that half of students don’t get the recommended fiber (Hellmich). These numbers could be reduced at JMU by increasing the hours in which students can eat at certain dining locations.
Even more serious results can occur as a result of bad eating habits. Two of the more serious results include Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia. Robin Kanarek and Robin Marks-Kaufman, who both have M.S. and P.H.D.’ s in Psychology, have determined that approximately 1 % of young adults develop Anorexia Nervosa. Although this number seems low, take into account that there are more than 15,000 students at JMU, translating into 150 cases. Bulimia is even more prevalent, effecting up to 8 % of young adults each year (Kanarek and Marks- Kaufman). Anything that can be done to reduce the risks of developing these life threatening eating disorders should be done.
The benefits of adding hours to the dining hall undoubtedly out weigh that of the set backs on numerous levels. Students, athletes, and the surrounding Harrisonburg area would greatly appreciate an addition to the hours in various ways and forms. This is a necessity in order for James Madison to expand into a more profitable and attractive university for years to come.