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The Blue & Gray Press | October 20, 2017

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New University Center leaves bad first impression on students

New University Center leaves bad first impression on students

By BRANDON QUINTIN

The University of Mary Washington’s new University Center is at the “center” of attention, and not for good reasons.

Last week, for example, the fire alarms went off on three separate occasions, and I sympathize with the unfortunate students who had their meals interrupted three times in the first week of classes.

Unlike upperclassmen, such as myself, all 1,001 incoming freshmen are forced to use their meal swipes exclusively in the University Center.

Perhaps these new freshman meal plans, that cost $500 more than the next highest option, beg the question of whether the new building’s enormous price tag was a bit too much for the University to bare.

However, this is not the only bad impression that the new University Center has made on the student body.

The website of the University Center’s design and architectural firm, Stantec, lists $43.4 million as the apparent cost of the project. That is nearly $11,000 for each student, about enough to cover an entire year’s tuition for Virginia residents.

However, when one looks at the actual price of the University Center, which was $56 million, it is actually $14,000 per student.

Moreover, since freshmen are forced to use their meal swipes only in the University Center, going elsewhere will quickly drain them of their $200 flex. The new University Center is the epitome of this school’s decision to choose quantity over quality.

Nearly everyone at UMW can agree that Seacobeck Hall was a bit dated, but it got the job done. Was a slightly better replacement really worth $56 million?

No, especially as tuition faces another increase at a hefty eight percent.

Further, the University Center is not the only subject of complaint when it comes to the changes made to campus dining this semester.

The Nest, which is usually a place filled with constant activity during lunch and dinner hours, is now a shell of its former self.

Joe Stacks has been downsized, divided and made less accessible in its move to the University Center along with WOW Wingery, which only serves a small selection of its original menu. Additionally, the Underground, which features Naturally Woodstock, is only open for
lunch.

And although Qdoba and Jamba Juice are a new and exciting additions to campus, their menus are limited and expensive.

If the quality of the food at UMW significantly improved then I would consider being less critical, however, that is not the case.

UMW is blindly following the path paved by other universities: increase number of students, add new flashy buildings to attract even more and increase tuition to pay for it all.

Instead of following the herd, UMW should have made the decision to relish in its small, liberal ­arts college roots.

The University Center should be our issue of concern for now. As students, we should demand more from our school, far more than an unneeded $56 million building with defective fire alarms and slow elevators.

Comments

  1. Anonymous

    But the building was donated…

  2. Anonymous

    The freshman meal plans are $1,987 per semester. https://umw.sodexomyway.com/dining-plans/index.html

  3. Anonymous

    Tuition doesn’t go towards construction of the building….

    This article is just more fact-less groaning over changes.

  4. Fleur de Lulz

    While I’m all for bitching about Mary Washington, it’s always in regard to matters required to be mentioned before the school sweeps them under the rug. I mean, hell, I was one of the Bullet’s main commenters during my years there. This article reeks of some pretty big first-world problems, though, so I can’t get completely behind the message.

    You have an improved food services facility there (which I’ve already tried out, and it’s infinitely better tasting), with new equipment, new seating, more options, and doesn’t have the nasty crap happening like the BOH at Seacobeck did….yet. The building also has more meeting spaces and a variety of other offices and necessary places for a university that is trying to expand itself to better fit the growing need of students, both current and incoming. The largest freshman class just entered UMW, and if Seaco couldn’t fit everyone at peak hours during my tenure, isn’t it good to have an expanded space now?

    Tuition has been rising for countless years now, and there may look to be a correlation between new buildings and what you pay, but it isn’t anywhere close to the degree you’re insinuating. The outrageously high funds from the state level are all earmarked, and no student is personally paying for these projects out of their pocket. I’m not agreeing with the tuition hikes by any means, but really (I’m leaving this part open ended so you can draw your own conclusions).

    UMW is making changes to increase it’s numbers and leaving its liberal arts roots in many wrong ways; we can agree on that. The Student Center was a necessity in this case. If the last point to leave an impression on readers is regarding fire alarms (remember Eagle Landing’s first year?) and slow elevators, then it just sounds like students who should be used to UMW are complaining about small growing pains for a new building and new system.

  5. Anonymous

    This article is poorly written. Your grammar is all over the place causing your entire message to be lost.

  6. Anonymous

    Let’s also add that there are no free drink refills at Qdoba.

  7. ALUMNI

    Can we also discuss the poor math skills here? The writer must not even have any concept of amortization. Why would the cost of this building be spread out over one group of students for just one year? This amount would have to be spread over many classes as they would obviously benefit from the use of the building too. Duh. Relatively basic math. Take some time and have a peer check your work my friend, putting out an article like this really discredits your work.

  8. Alex

    I don’t think it’s a bad thing that they made it. It’s just the execution which is lacking. They need to change it for the best interest of the student instead of the best interest of the school. Longer hours. More variety please.

  9. Psych Student

    Lets not forget that they tore down Chandler and left the psychology students without a building and decided to shove us in trailors. Yet, we already had a dining hall. Could they have not waited to finish renovating Mercer before taking away our building? People get attached to the home of their major and now after I graduate I will only be able to show and revisit where I finished my last semester at the school I love.

  10. Grammar troll

    Whoa. Is this the level of professionalism the blueandgray press is now offering? Where is the fact checking? Where is the editing? How did this not get looked over before it was published?

  11. Anonymous

    This is a horrendous article. Not for it’s content, which is completely opinionated and fact-less, but for it’s lack of grammar and editing. Being an alumni (2014) from UMW, I am embarrassed that our student body would post something like this on a public forum. Please, for the love of what ever religious entity you believe in, get yourself together.

  12. Anonymous

    Actually, the freshman meal plans are $2,495 per semester. The 225 block plan is $1,987 per semester.

  13. Anonymous

    At least when seaco was open we had variety everyday. We also had choices when it came to foods that’s prepared for you. I am very disappointed!

  14. Sam Crystal

    Brandon – As a proud alum that got to watch this center be built and not even get to use it, I really hope that the bulk of UMW students do not agree and are able to see through your article. This building has been opened for 1 week, it is irresponsible to make a public condemnation of the building’s existence because you are dissatisfied with the speed of the the elevators (burn off your beer weight and take the stairs). It is also extremely irresponsible, and false journalism, to imply that your tuition went into this building when that is factually incorrect. Not liking the food, the meal plan system, or the effects on the other dining halls are completely legitimate grievances. Be a true leader at UMW at start a movement that brings these issues to the eyes of the administration through legitimate means, not through slander, libel, and petty complaints about a $56 million dollar GIFT given to you and your community.

  15. Laila

    Choose your battles. Firstly, the students around when these decisions were being made can let you know there are greater things to complain about if you will, but voicing yourself constructively is a good start. I also don’t understand why the author seems to think the cost of the student center’s construction is divided amongst current students’ tuition…that makes no sense, that’s not how tuition works. Changes are changes. UMW needed major updates. We had one small library to work with, a mediocre cafeteria style dining hall and a couple random spots (the nest has been downsized and under construction for a while man). We needed more student org/event space, we needed options like on-campus chain restaurants, more technology, etc. what does that actually change about our liberal artsy-ness? We clearly are not like the New England lib arts schools, and William Mary has several professional degrees, graduate schools, lots of random big expensive stuff including a football team but no one says it’s not a liberal arts school anymore? Not that I’m advocating football and Greek life, but seriously, none of these complaints were legitimate. If your choices have actually been limited in a hindering way please expand on that, if you’re struggling because of pay increases keep talking, but really this is one of the most affordable good schools in the country and definitely in the state, and budget was pre-allocated directly to the student center, which was planned years ago. As an alum I’m disappointed by what is upsetting some students. We all love UMW but you can’t complain and then be upset when the school finally enters the 21st century.

  16. Concerned studen

    Something that drives me crazy is the fact that there are so many budget cuts that they have to cut funding for tutors. Academics is that last thing that should be cut. Its shameful.

    Additionally, the new UC will create tons of food waste because of the fact that there are very few customization option. You don’t want something on the plates that are pre-made? Just dump it in the trash.

    Lets not forget the horrendous lines and terrible hours. You are on a sports team and don’t finish practice until 7? Too bad, you can’t eat there.

    For freshman, it is torture to have to eat at the same place Every. Single. Day. They have limited options and it is extremely easy to get sick of them.

    Don’t expect a high return rate MaryWash, your dining experience is crap.

  17. Brandon Quintin (AUTHOR)

    So before this gets completely out of hand, I think a little explanation is in order.

    I completely understand the criticisms over grammar and math. In fact I brought them up to the editors myself as soon as this article was published, and have asked for it to be taken down until the corrections can be made. Those mistakes were not mine and were somehow added during the editing process. The meal plan price mistake especially upset me. But I will apologize on behalf of the paper and will work to have them upload the ORIGINAL, unedited copy as soon as possible. Until then, here is a copy: (Hopefully you find it somewhat better in the math and grammar departments haha)

    UNIVERSITY CENTER PROBLEMS AND CONTROVERSEY

    Mary Washington’s new University Center is, well, at the “center” of attention—and not for good reason. Last week, the fire alarms went off on at least three separate occasions. I sympathize with the unfortunate students who had their meals interrupted and cut short three times in the first week of classes. They were probably freshmen. Because, unlike privileged upperclassmen like myself, incoming freshmen—all 1,001 of them—are forced to use their mealswipes exclusively in the University Center. Perhaps the new building’s enormous price tag was a bit too much for the University to bear. The fact that the University is also forcing all freshmen to purchase the most expensive meal plan, over $500 per semester more expensive than the next largest option, gives credence to that accusation. The new University Center, which is just now finishing up some final touches in construction, has already made a bad first impression on the student body. It is rare to hear anything nice said about it.

    The website of the University Center’s design and architectural firm, Stantec, lists $43.4 million as the apparent cost of the project. For one simple building, that is a monumental cost. That’s nearly $11,000 for each student—about enough to cover an entire year’s tuition for Virginia residents. Yet the saddest part is that the actual price of the University Center was $56 million; bumping it up to $14,000 per student. Nearly everyone in the University can agree that Seacobeck Hall was a bit dated. But it did its job. Was a slightly better replacement really worth $56 million? Especially as tuition faces another increase, this time a hefty eight percent? Let me answer that for you: No.

    The University Center is not the only subject of complaint when it comes to the changes made to campus dining this semester. The nest, usually a place of great activity during lunch and dinner hours, is now a shell of its former self. Joe Stacks has been downsized, divided, made less accessible and moved into the new building. Wow Wingery is nowhere to be found. Qdoba is something new, but its menu is limited to say the least. And even then, purchases made on the second floor are expensive in flex dollars and cannot be taken up to the main dining hall. The Underground, meanwhile, is only open for lunch.

    If the quality of the food at Mary Washington had significantly improved then I would consider being less critical. Yet unfortunately that is not the case. The food is largely the same. The additional restrictions on Campus Dining is another reason to voice concern. Freshmen are forced to use their mealswipes only in the University Center. Going elsewhere will quickly drain them of their $200 flex. If you are a freshman and don’t like the food in the University Center, then it appears you will just have to deal with it. Be thankful you weren’t here to miss the other dining options.

    The new University Center is the epitome of this school’s decision to choose quantity over quality. Mary Washington is blindly following the path paved by other universities: increase number of students, add new flashy buildings to attract even more, and increase tuition to pay for it all and squeeze them for all they’re worth. Instead of blindly following the herd, UMW should’ve made the decision to relish in its small, liberal-arts college roots. But that is for another article. The University Center should be our issue of concern for now. As students, we should demand more from our school. Far more than an unneeded $56 million building with defective fire alarms and slow elevators.

  18. Former Eagle

    This article is an embarrassment. As is the editing. I expect better from UMW students.

  19. Former Eagle

    Even the original is bad. Granted, not as deplorable, but this is more an editorial than an article, and even as an editorial, it’s problematic. Do better…

  20. Anonymous

    This school has lost its way..its Sady. I hope the transfer rates stay high.

  21. English Major Alumni

    As someone who has just finished working in the journalism field (by choice), this article is not only poorly written but inaccurate. What editor allowed this to get published? Why in the world is the writer making his own inferences instead of polling or interviewing the student body? Is this some sort of opinion column? Why is he not citing his facts and figures?

    This is extremely poor journalistic writing.

  22. Former Bullet writer

    Much agreed with the previous comments. This article has no business being published in any reputable newspaper. Who is letting this fly? Who is editing this stuff? Errant claims with no inkling of actual, factual support? Poor stuff, “Blue and Grey Press.”

  23. Former Bullet writer

    And as a general rule of thumb, NEVER respond to the comments of your article online! Especially if you simply throw your editors under the bus in the process. Who is counseling you??

  24. Student

    Ironic how the majority of the people criticizing this are alumni. As a current student I have to say there are definitely some problems with the new dining facility. I also don’t think that it’s fair to force all the freshmen to purchase the most expensive meal plan and not allow them to use meal swipes outside of the new dining facility.

  25. Anonymous

    This is an example of whats wrong with the current state of journalism in America, a complete joke. No facts to back up claims, full of errors, this is gossip at best. Learn to report the facts not just your opinion.

  26. Fleur de Lulz

    I don’t see the irony, because most alumni are commenting on the grammar and validity of this thing. I think you’re trying to use a word for humorous effect (or serious, because who can tell) and falling flat. I was one of the few commenting on the source, and I was able to experience the food the past few weeks, and similar meal plan conditions my freshman year. The article reeks of first world issues that are easily solved through healthy discussion rather than this piece that solely complains.

    Ever had a chat with Rose Benedict? If not, I suggest you do that before we all find another piece on UMW’s meals. Sodexo is surprisingly accommodating when it comes to claims that are this grand.

  27. ALUMNI

    I am confused why the author decided to throw his editors under the bus by pushing the blame off on to them? What happened to taking responsibility for yourself, learning from your mistakes, and moving all? Every day people work in environments where they have to make up for their bosses mistakes. Every single day. What made you think that writing those comments to “save yourself” would ever make you look better?

  28. Anonymous

    Jesus christ alumni, it’s just an article. He is reporting that the UC did not live up to the expectations of the students, which is completely true. Since you have have not eaten at the UC,you have no right to argue the validity of this article with students who eat at the UC every day. What is wrong with you?

  29. a current eagle

    I’m dissapointed by the apparent cynisism coming from some alumni regarding this article. The author made many perfectly valid points. The new student center has left many dissatisfied. Anybody commenting on its “superiority” over seco obviously hasn’t eaten there. The forced regulation of freshmen plans/swipes in order to boost use of the center is deplorable at best.

  30. Alumni McDoogle

    Looks like the university continues to waste effort and poorly thought out ideas that are universally loathed by current and former students alike.