There have been a variety of problems that have arisen since the closing of South Side, among them the overcrowding of the dining centers. The Watterson Dining Commons especially faced this problem and anyone that has dined there around lunch time can attest to the lack of seating. Of course, it is easy to see why. On-campus and off-campus students alike rely on meal plans for an affordable lunch and dinner. Watterson is easily the most accessible, causing the overcrowding.
Unfortunately, there has been little done to address this issue since the South Side residence halls closed. While millions have been spent on Hancock Stadium and Capen Auditorium, an arguably more glaring need has been ignored.
It is clear that Illinois State needs a new dorm building complete with a dining center. Having students live off-campus after their sophomore year should never have been a long-term solution for the lack of dorm spaces and an answer for at least another dining center should have come sooner.
However, due to such a solution never arriving, living off-campus just became even more expensive and difficult. ISU Campus Dining recently posted on their website that “meal plans are no longer available to Cardinal Court or Off-Campus Students.” Not only is this incredibly frustrating for many, but such a stipulation will also negatively impact many students.
Student apartments are by no means cheap and unlike the costs for dorms, cannot be covered by student loans. Thankfully for many students, meal plans allow an affordable way for students to eat.
However, now that such an option has been eliminated, living off-campus will become much more expensive for many. Perhaps too expensive for some, as many universities do not have such rules and thus have an edge over ISU.
On top of the extra expense comes a great inconvenience. For many students, it is simply not possible to return to their apartment in time to eat before their next class. The obvious answer to this is to have students bring a lunch to campus, but that too is not without problems.
During the winter months, there are not nearly enough places for students to eat a packed lunch. While there are a few areas in the Bone Student Center as well as other buildings, it is easy to see these few places filling up quickly.
This will likely lead to many students eating in the hallways outside of classrooms. Besides being an unsavory way to dine, it can be expected that this will also lead to increased noise in the hallways as well as trash from food.
It is even more frustrating that Campus Dining has not provided many solutions to resolve this issue. Assuming that this new policy is temporary, a special flex package would be helpful for off-campus students for the time being. Even allowing for off-campus students to only eat at Linkins Center, a dining center that is considerably less crowded on average, would be a more viable alternative.
As of this time, however, no such solution has been presented which is problematic for this university. It is becoming increasingly less appealing to be a junior or senior at this university and the need for another dormitory and dining center is clear.
To expect the average student to afford both the expenses of an apartment and food, on top of the rising costs of tuition, without the aid of at least a meal plan is unrealistic.
If nothing is done, it is possible that prospective students will be deterred from attending an otherwise outstanding university.