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Chartwells town hall allows student leaders to voice concerns

A virtual town hall meeting was held Wednesday night between students and the Chartwells corporate team. The meeting gave student leaders from advocacy groups across campus the opportunity to voice their concerns with multiple food issues that have been presented this semester.

Rachael Deacon, vice president of the Commuter Student Association, Rami Daham, president of the Residence Hall Association, Gabby Kaderli — sophomore senator and the dining hall liaison — and Undergraduate Student Association (USA) President Jahare Hudson were all present at the meeting. Jason Francey, the director for student engagement, was also present to field questions.

After brief introductions, the floor was opened for students to voice their concerns. Kaderli began by giving a brief overview of some of the concerns she has voiced in the past, like raw chicken and moldy bread being served, as well as a lack of consideration for students with allergies and religious restrictions. Iggy’s being on the second floor of Palisano was also brought up. “The only way to access this location is by two steep flights of stairs. There is an elevator; however, students cannot access it. This is inconsiderate for students with physical disabilities and restrictions. They cannot even access the space,” Kaderli said.

Many of these concerns are not new. There is a parent group on Facebook that has caused many of these concerns along with photos to “go viral” across campus. Parents will post photos of uncooked meat that their children have sent them for other parents to see.

Kaderli also voiced concerns about the repetitive menu. “It seems that they do not take note when certain meals are less popular than others. They continue to cook the same food, even if students don’t like it,” Kaderli said. “There is also no way to give feedback on the food we are eating.”

Deacon, a senior, said that since she has arrived on campus, the quality of the food has continued to “go downhill.” She said that as a commuter, the food is too expensive and the dining hall hours are not conducive to their schedules.

Daham stressed the importance of the student experience and voiced multiple reasons why he was not impressed with Chartwells and their performance. He cited a situation last year with one of the themed dinners that was done. It was advertised as a Hawaiian Luau. When the concern of cultural appropriation was brought up to the on-campus staff, they changed the name of the event instead of canceling it.

One of the most pressing concerns that Kaderli brought up was the possibility that Chartwells might remove Pitchforks, the vegan and vegetarian station in the dining hall. “We have a major on campus called ABEC: Animal Behavior Ecology and Conservation. This major houses a lot of vegans and vegetarians, and having this station could be a big reason why they chose to come to Canisius. Students should not have to give up ethical choices when they come to college,” Kaderli said.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Robert Mottola, regional manager for Chartwells, spoke directly to the students. “This breaks my heart,” Mottola said. “You have my commitment to put Canisius back on track.”

Molly Kurth, the northeast division president, said, “We will come back with a plan that identifies key priorities you brought up. As division president, this is very important to me. I’m very sorry we have fallen short.”

This town hall happened just days after letters were sent by both USA and SAAC to communicate to Chartwells the school’s intentions to accept bids from other on-campus catering companies.

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