Campus Auxiliary Services plans to reopen Red Jacket in September, introduces options for different diets

Construction in Red Jacket Dining Hall (pictured above) is set to be completed during the summer. Campus Auxiliary Services is planning to unveil the new changes for the fall semester. In addition to structural renovations, more inclusive menu options will be added including an all-vegan and allergen friendly station. Halal food options are in the process of being brought on (Zainab Tahir/incoming news editor).

Campus Auxiliary Services will likely resume operations at Red Jacket Dining Hall early in the academic year, introducing substantial renovations and dining options that would accommodate dietary restrictions.

Construction for RJ is projected to finish at the end of June 2018, according to CAS Facilities Director Clarence Mitchell. 

The renovations will feature notable changes to the interior structure of the dining hall including gender neutral bathrooms on the first floor and increased seating options. A new elevator was also be installed to comply with guidelines from the Americans with Disabilities Act which mandates proper access for those with physical constraints, according to Mitchell. 

The layout for RJ previously enshrouded a huge portion of the space in darkness, and a lot of the area was used for the kitchen and food preparation area hidden to visitors, according to Mitchell. Additional seating and brighter lighting has been added, including new skylights. 

CAS Executive Director Mark Scott is excited for the immersive atmosphere the new renovations will bring.

“What you see here is the continued evolution of us bringing the back of the house to the front. We’re not afraid to let people see us cook, slice, dice and chop fresh every single day,” Scott said. “We cook off fresh meats every single day. So we want to bring our campus community, our student community into the food preparation. We want them to know we have safe food production systems.” 

Television screens for conferences and meetings as well as increased space for recreational activities such as playing video games will be installed, according to Mitchell. There will be a similar concept to Food Studio North and Max Market at RJ dining hall, according to Scott 

RJ will attempt to offer varied food options, including American comfort foods and different cultural cuisines, according to Scott. CAS is planning for an all-vegan station and an allergen friendly station that accounts for the top eight allergens, Scott said.

The estimated total cost for funding of the project, including construction, soft costs, furniture and more was roughly $7 million, according to Scott. The state is helping to cover part of the cost, while the rest is provided for by accumulated reserves and loans from the Bank of Castile, Scott said. 

“[RJ] had been around for 60 years without major renovation, but there are a number of things that were starting to happen in the building, most notably the building was starting to become unsafe for both our team members and all of our students,” Scott said. “The scope of the work that needed to happen was really starting to increase just in terms of the things people don’t see.”

CAS is working to bring halal food options to campus as well after a student expressed concerns.

Business administration major freshman Samra Mansuri reached out to CAS Nutrition and Wellness Coordinator Heather Carrera with issues regarding dietary restrictions. 

“I found out there [weren’t] any halal options on-campus,” Mansuri said. “I told them that I have a lot of dietary restrictions and I cannot eat food that is not halal.” 

Carrera worked with Executive Chef Illana Stevenson to help bring halal options to campus, according to Mansuri. Students now have the option to request halal meat at specific stations in Mary Jemison Dining Hall and Fusion Market. 

“We try to bring things into campus rather than forcing them to go off-campus and spend their money elsewhere,” Carrera said. 

The school is considering partnering with the company, Halal Shack, after encountering the franchise at the SUNY Auxiliary Services Association Conference, according to Scott. 

“Halal Shack is definitely something we’re excited about,” Scott said. “We hope that we can partner with them to help expand our offerings across campus…we want to expand our food options around kosher and halal.” 

The college anticipates reaching out to students and staff for feedback regarding these new initiatives.

“I feel really relieved,” Mansuri said. “It was just hard for me, I wouldn’t really eat anything, now it’s pretty cool."