Just before Ithaca College students left campus for fall break, the college held an open forum in which students could discuss the college’s recent transition to an in-house dining plan. The hourlong discussion, held from 6 to 7 p.m. Oct. 15 in Klingenstein Lounge, was organized to provide a space where students could voice their concerns, ask questions and offer feedback about the new dining plan directly to the college Dining Services team.
The college’s open forum provided a crucial opportunity for students to engage in constructive dialogue with the Dining Services team and the rest of the college community about the college’s dining options. However, this particular discussion prompted a disappointing response from the campus community. Despite the recent rise in student concerns about the college’s dining services, only four students attended the discussion.
The discussion was organized after students aired complaints about the changes. Though the new dining plan has a number of benefits, including simpler, cheaper meal plan options and locally sourced food options, it also eliminated a handful of resources, including late-night dining services. Recently, students have raised concerns on campus and via social media about the new meal plan, primarily relating to food accessibility. Someone at the college even created a Change.org petition that asked the college to reinstate the late-night dining options.
Students were quick to take to social media to air their concerns about the new dining plans. Over 1,000 people signed the Change.org petition, demonstrating students’ desires to make a change. However, in order to influence tangible change, students must also take their activism efforts offline and take advantage of opportunities to engage with the campus directly. Constructive conversations about campus-wide issues are absolutely necessary and play a crucial role in creating positive change at the college. The failure of students to show up and engage with the campus community during open discussions makes it significantly more difficult for the administration to understand, recognize and address the student body’s concerns. It also creates a harmful disconnect between students and the administration, increasing the likelihood of tension and misunderstanding.
Forums like this clearly show the administration’s desire to rebuild its relationship with the campus community and its commitment to addressing students’ concerns. However, the responsibility to curate positive change can’t fall on the administration alone.
If the college community truly wants to move forward and generate a healthy relationship among students, faculty, staff and the administration, it is absolutely crucial that students take advantage of opportunities to engage with decision-makers in the college community.