Over the summer, Maryville College underwent a major transformation. Students came back to a newly renovated dining hall along with a new food service provider. Metz Culinary Management has transformed Pearson’s and the food beyond recognition; however, some changes in Isaac’s Café have sparked negative repercussions among the students.
Recently, signs arose on campus advocating a “Peaceful Boycott Against Isaac’s” from Sept. 8 to Sept. 12 during meal swipe hours. Soon after, a petition began circulating asking that Metz expand the meal swipe hours, offer more meal plan options and give students more bonus bucks. The signs quickly caught the attention of the student body and administration.
Sophomore Timela Crutcher, the MC student behind the signs, believed that these problems deserved to be addressed. When asked her reasoning, she cited the struggle she and many other students were facing: having to go to work or practice hungry because they could not use a meal swipe during the necessary times in Isaac’s. This motivated her to enact change. “If I had not reached out to the student body, I don’t know who would have . . . I think of myself as an activist because if something needs to be done, I’m the person who takes the initiative to do it,” Crutcher said. The immense amount of support from students surprised her, and though she is wary to call her efforts a success yet, she has certainly noticed progress.
While many people fully support protesting, others believe that concerns could have been voiced in a different manner. “Metz has made an obvious effort to please the students, and if we communicate what we want to them, they are likely to appease us. I feel the boycott is rash and dramatic,” said Mia Sundstrom, a senior.
On the other hand, sophomore, Bethany Headrick, is able to sympathize with both sides stating, “I think it is important to protest but to do it in a way that is not disrespecting Isaac’s because it is a privilege that a lot of schools do not have.”
Vice President and Assistant Dean of Students, Vandy Kemp, supports any way that students choose to make their voices heard. “I’m a child of the 70’s and protest is what I’m all about,” Kemp said. Though, she does acknowledge that there would have been easier ways to resolve the issue, pointing out that SGA is a tool that students can and should utilize.
Despite their stance on the boycott, many students agree with the requests made by Crutcher. Sophomore, Katie Stephens, voiced what the majority of students seem to be thinking: “I feel that if you are paying as much as you are for a meal plan you shouldn’t be told when and what you can eat.”
The protest against Isaac’s has succeeded in sparking serious conversations about these concerns. Since the signs appeared, an open forum has been held for students and Dean Kemp has held a meeting with Metz. She assures that changes are being made in order to make the Isaac’s dining experience more convenient for students.
Overall, however, it is difficult for students to ignore the improved food service quality that Metz has brought to MC. “It is amazing that we can pay pretty much the same price we did with Aramark and have such better quality food,” said Spencer Blanden, a senior.
Junior Caleb Willis points out another benefit resulting from the changes to MC dining. “I think the overall dining experience here will help attract prospective students, something that definitely didn’t happen before,” Willis said.
As MC continues transitioning to a new food service provider, Kemp reminds students that they have a voice. “Now comes the hard work of fine-tuning our food service design and our partnership,” Kemp stated. “I want students to understand that this is a large work in progress and they need to be involved in the process.”