Sweeping changes shake up CAS dining

Campus Auxiliary Services has substantially changed the operating hours of many dining locations this semester in an attempt to fill the void left by Red Jacket Dining Center's temporary closure.

Mary Jemison, formerly open only on weekdays for à la carte breakfast and lunch entrées, will now serve as an all-you-care-to-eat dinner facility seven days a week and will provide brunch on weekends.

Hours of operation have been extended at Geneseo University Store and Campus Grind in the College Union, soon-to-be-opened Books & Bytes in Milne Library, and Millennium Market in Letchworth Dining Center. In addition, students can now order pizza for delivery from Uncle Vito's, based out of Letchworth, and can pick up coffee in the morning at the "Sunrise Shack" near the Saratoga townhouses.

According to CAS marketing coordinator Becky Stewart, the closure of Red Jacket and Southside Café was "not a comfort issue" as some students may believe, but rather a "health and safety issue" that was too large-scale to be resolved before the start of the fall semester.

She noted that because many buildings on campus are assumed to contain asbestos, construction projects could be prolonged to ensure the safety of workers and tenants.

Mark Scott, director of CAS, also said that bureaucratic obstacles to capital project planning slowed the process. "No one could give us a concrete date as to when [Red Jacket] could be opened," Scott said, which led to the decision to close the facility for the full fall semester.

All CAS employees who worked full time at Red Jacket have been relocated to other facilities, principally Mary Jemison. Sarah Gibberty, general manager of Campus Dining and Catering, said that minimal equipment changes were needed to transform MJ into an all-you-can-eat facility.

Some changes were made to the menu options this semester, though these alterations are unrelated to RJ's closure. Gibberty, who joined CAS over the summer, said she noticed a "duplication of items" and "places where we could be offering different things." In particular, deli meats were removed from GUS because they are already available at several other locations.

Gibberty said she spends time researching trends in the food offered by popular eateries as well as local businesses, adding, "We know who our competition is." She said that the burger and chicken sandwiches at MJ have been increased from three ounces of meat to six ounces of all-natural meat to increase value and meet students' expectations.

CAS executive chef Jonna Anne said that "consistency of quality" is a driver behind many of the changes CAS makes to its menu mix.

Generally, prices this semester are comparable to those of last year. Scott said that CAS tries to make concessions wherever possible to make prices reasonable for students, even when suppliers raise food costs.

Students expressed mixed opinions about the changes. "It seems to me that [CAS] tried to take what was at RJ and bring it here, but only half of it made it," said sophomore Brian Clemente.

"Brunch at Letch is ridiculously packed so far," said sophomore Andrew Kuntz, noting that the recent crackdown on open parties may mean more students are attending brunch on weekend mornings than in years past.

"It's horrible," said junior Alex Ruch of the changes, citing a lack of sushi and wrap options at GUS and an unwillingness of servers to modify the listed menu items.

"I think the dining has sort of improved," said junior Amelia Hansen. "There are a lot more healthy food choices."

It is unclear which, if any, of the changes will remain when Red Jacket and Southside Café re-open in the spring. Stewart said that this semester will serve as a "test period" for the changed hours, adding that CAS is "constantly evaluating our services and looking for feedback from students."

"What you see today is not necessarily what we want to carry into tomorrow," Scott said.

According to Gibberty, CAS will be looking at sales and transaction data as well as speaking with managers of dining facilities before making decisions about which changes to continue.

Full hours of operation for CAS dining facilities can be found at http://cas.geneseo.edu.