Duke University Student Dining Advisory Council held its first meeting Thursday night, in which a variety of difficulties associated with the introduction of West Union were brought up. 

During the meeting, students raised issues related to the vendors, facilities and accessibility of the new dining hall and made suggestions that were noted by representatives from Duke Dining. The discussion focused on both complaints from other students as well as personal observations by the administrators. These "growing pains" are already being addressed or will be soon, however, said Director of Dining Services Robert Coffey.

"I hope students know the first week and month are very much a trial run," said junior and DUSDAC member Joshua Furth. "Let's see what people don't like and like."

Among the items brought up at the meeting were pricing options across the vendors, a concern echoed by both the student body and committee members. Furth noted that some breakfast options at Skillet, a vendor in West Union, are "20 to 30 percent" higher compared to their equivalents at Penn Pavilion, a dining hall that had replaced West Union during its construction.

"If you're having that for breakfast and lunch every day, then it's just not sustainable," he said.

Marcus Carson, the sustainability and quality assurance manager of Duke Dining, also commented on how some features of the new facility are meant to be environmentally friendly. Students at West Union have been required to pay $0.25 for a general purpose cup, Carson said, in an attempt to encourage the use of personal water bottles as a green alternative. 

Students have also expressed concerns about cleanliness and stocking issues, Furth said. Committee members noted that utensils for student use have sometimes been dirty and that the dish belt area frequently has a bad odor. Furth added that some vendors such as Il Forno's made-to-order pasta service were sometimes chaotic and messy in their space.

Some of these problems are due to ongoing maintenance, Coffey explained, adding that the hood for managing odors is currently broken but will be fixed soon. Dish staff will also be receiving new training, and Duke Dining will work on communicating with our vendors, he said.

Coffey noted that the several fire alarms that have gone off in the West Union forcing all to evacuate in the last few weeks have been due to poor smoke sensor placement. He added that this issue would also be taken care of soon. 

Furth said that he is confident Duke will quickly address the complaints that he and the rest of the committee presented.

“I thought [the meeting with Duke Dining] was really productive. And the fact that we have a place to sort of convince and communicate is awesome,” Furth said. “I think a lot of the [concerns] is stuff they probably had on their radar. From past experience, it wouldn’t surprise me if most of those things get resolved in the next week.”

In other business:

Members presented ideas for better accessibility to Duke's food truck options including an online website and signs across campus. Duke Dining also said they would consider adding other spaces for food trucks such as K-Ville. 

DUSDAC plans to promote cooking lessons and other activities from the Chef's Kitchen in West Union, including presentations from celebrity chefs. 

The current limited hours of Merchants-on-Points services were also considered, with DUSDAC and Duke Dining discussing a potential change to make earlier start times. Since the opening of West Union this year, MOP vendors have only been delivering on food points beginning at 8 p.m. each night.