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Students complain about meal service

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By Don Pace

Some Highlands University students are complaining about their meal program.

Two of them addressed the Board of Regents last week, contending that the Cantina is not catering to students’ needs. Student body president Greg Rael brought up many of the same issues during an earlier meeting of the student affairs committee on March 7.

Anthony Jaramillo said he paid $1,179 for the 10-meal plan, which comes out to $5.90 a meal. He said others on a different plan pay $7.37 a meal.

“Last year, we used to go to the Cantina and swipe our card for one meal, but since the renovation, they changed that to where students are credited only a small portion and students have to pay the rest out of pocket,” Jaramillo said. “Before, the Cantina was always full at lunch with students socializing. Now it’s always empty and I never see anybody going to eat there. So my concern is if I’m paying $5.90, why are they only granting me $2.62 a meal?”

Jaramillo said he was also not happy with the food service at the cafeteria. He said the quality of the food being served is not adequate in light of the amount of money he and fellow students are paying.

“Students complain all the time about the food, and I just wanted to come and report to you how I feel about it. I don’t know how often you (regents) eat at the cafeteria, but they serve grilled cheese at least once a week, which is very inexpensive for the price that I’m paying,” Jaramillo said.

Andrew Marquez echoed Jaramillo’s complaints, adding that he has friends at the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State, who tell him that they pay less for meals than Highlands students.

“I feel that our students are being cheated,” Marquez said.

Students also complained that the Cantina was closing at 2 p.m. but had been told earlier that it would be open until 8 p.m. so that students with late classes and athletes getting off practice could get something to eat.

Both the Cantina and the cafeteria are being run by ABL Food Services out of Louisiana. Earlier in the year, other students lodged complaints about the quality of food and as a result the company brought in a new manager for their operations at Highlands.

Board Chairman Javier Gonzales said it didn’t make much business sense for ABL to operate a facility that wasn’t student friendly or as in the Cantina’s situation, where it was empty all the time.

President Jim Fries agreed noting that the chief operating officer of ABL would be on campus on April 2 and student concerns would be a part of the discussions.

The company said Monday it would provide comment on the issue, but it didn’t do so as of press time today.

The Board of Regents was set to vote on room and board rates for the 2009 fiscal year. Because of the students’ complaints, the board voted on an increase for room rates, but decided to table the rates on meal service until after looking into ABL’s contract with the university and further discussions with the company.