After learning that many sophomore students drop Penn’s dining plan after their freshman year, a student-run consulting club at Penn was determined to find out why.
Called The MindBank, this consulting group conducts data collection for other campus organizations. The data from their survey was collected from 169 people — short of their goal of 300 responses. It was collected by speaking to students outside of Houston Hall and soliciting responses in class Facebook groups. 75 percent of those who responded were freshmen, 6.5 percent were sophomores, 8.5 percent were juniors and 10 percent were seniors.
On a scale from 1 (least satisfied) to 5 (most satisfied), 64.5 percent said they were not satisfied, answering with a 1 or 2, and 14.2 percent said they were satisfied, answering with a 4 or 5.
College freshman Matthew Schnitzer, one of the students who worked on the survey, said he thought the level of dissatisfaction was “very shocking.”
“It’s pretty unsatisfying for something the school is requiring us to buy,” Schnitzer said.
Of the people that dropped the dining plan after freshman year, 82.8 percent said saying they dropped the plan because it was too expensive and 72.4 percent said they dropped the plan because it had poor food quality.
The survey also found that 50 percent of people were unsatisfied with the availability of food that adhere to their diet, either because of religious reasons or because they were gluten free.
Another aspect of the survey found that 52 percent of respondents had witnessed unprofessional conduct or unsanitary conditions at the dining halls. In particular, seven different students mentioned seeing mice in the 1920 Commons dining hall.
Engineering freshman Eddie Hammond said he was disappointed by the results of the survey, since 25 percent of the student body is required to have one.
“Freshmen get locked into the dining program,” Hammond said. “Penn should be doing it’s best that students get their money’s worth.”
“There needs to be increased transparency in matters like this where students are automatically enrolled and don’t have a choice,” he added.
When The Daily Pennsylvanian reached out to the University for comment, they responded that they did not know this student survey existed. Penn Dining has their own annual survey they use to see if their program is satisfying the community’s needs.
“We have to continue to monitor and determine [the contractor’s] effectiveness and efficiency in their deliverables,” Penn Business Services’ Director of Communications and External Relations Barbara Lea-Kruger said. “There are certain things that we continue to monitor: quality of food, variety of food, those are some of the things that are very important towards achieving satisfaction.”
The University’s survey has been used in the past to make changes to the One-Swipe-Through program at the Cafe at McClelland and extend dining hours to meet students’ demands. The University does not grant access to the results from their survey.
Lea-Kruger noted that it is important to keep in mind that the University survey gets around 1,000 replies, while the one by The MindBank only had 169 responses. She said the surveys were designed to analyze different aspects of the dining plan, so they cannot be directly compared.
The students at The MindBank, however, said that students should still be able to participate in a discussion on the quality of Penn Dining.
“It was important for us to put all these voices together so perhaps we can have a high level discussion about how Penn Dining could improve their services,” Hammond said. “It’s up to students to challenge the ideas of when they have to spend money.”
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