The dining halls at the University of Rhode Island provide green-colored comment cards that students can use to voice complaints and concerns about the food served or the halls themselves, in order to bring about changes and improvements. Most recently, the cards have been flooded with one main complaint: the lack of music at Mainfare Dining Hall’s the stir fry station.
“To tell you the truth there was no way for me to gage the popularity of [the stir fry station music] until I took it away,” said Steve Mello, URI’s Director of Dining Services. “But when I looked through those [comment cards] it was kind of comical in a way… I’ve never gotten a pile like this about seats not being available or anything else.”
The music was shut off due to one person’s anonymous letter to Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs Mary Jo Gonzalez’s office, passing over dining services completely with the complaint. Mello was away at the time that Gonzalez forwarded the complaint to him, so he decided to temporarily end the music altogether until his return. Since the complaint was anonymous Mello did not want to make a decision right away, so that he could see what the reaction would be.
“I just wanted to make sure that it was a student that wanted them to [shut off the music],” said Mello, “because there is a way that you can listen to popular music that you can listen to it G-Rated, because sometimes I think it [the music] had some vulgarity.”
Mello was overwhelmed by the number of students and employees alike who cried out for the music to be turned back on, with many filling out stacks of the green comment cards at the dining hall. Some of the messages written on the cards included, “One person should not stop the music. Music being played was one of the standout and fun qualities of Mainfare Dining Hall” and “Please let the stir fry and pasta employees listen to their music. I loved the music and never felt degraded while listening to it,” among other comments
“I don’t know how many of my employees that work there said, ‘Hey put in a comment card,’ because for all the things that I was saying about seating and other things, nothing [has been an issue] like this music,” said Mello. “If that’s the least of my worries, please, I’ll have a band come in and play music!”
Upon his return to the university this past weekend, Mello decided to reallow music back in Hope, under the conditions that it is not vulgar or too loud.
“Because I have other student employees… [who I tell] ‘you’re going to wash dishes, you’re going to bus tables,’ but I don’t say ‘you’re going to have to listen to music that you might not want to listen to,’” said Mello. “So they need to be all on board with that or I’m not going to play the music, because it is a work environment.”
The green comment cards that students can use to voice any concerns they have with the dining hall, whether general or personal, are available in all of the dining halls. At Hope they are located near the Homestyle station and usually by the cashier station as well.
“When we get feedback, if there are changes we can make, [like] an easy change or fix, we try to do that,” said Mello. “Unfortunately, the conundrum we have is the poor seating, and hoping that more people come [to Ram’s Den]. Because personally I feel that when the weather is bad people aren’t making the trek up there… so [Hope] gets a little busy.”
Dining Services is willing to accommodate the individual needs of students, particularly those with dietary restrictions and/or allergies. Recently one student complained on a comment card that they was unable to eat flavored yogurt and simply requested that the dining hall additionally provide vanilla yogurt, which Mello said will be implemented as soon as possible.
The comment cards can be returned to a box, cashier, or one of the dining hall managers. Depending on the complaint, cards are reviewed by the managers and/or the Associate Administrator of Production. For a card to initiate change, there does not have to be multiple complaints, so long as the comment is something that Dining Services is capable of acting upon right away.