Students struggling to adjust to spring changes to Rider dining

By Stephen Neukam

A growing number of students at Rider have grown frustrated with the school’s dining system after nearly two weeks on campus, with cut back hours, long lines and technical difficulties plaguing a coronavirus-adapted infrastructure.

Junior criminal justice major Derek Monahan remembered the university’s “decent” dining selection and “painless” ordering system of the fall semester. When he returned for the spring semester, however, things had changed — and not for the better.

Besides a blistering snowstorm that complicated things further, Monahan said issues with Grubhub, the university’s main dining app, set him back by half an hour several times to even order his food. He waited over an hour to pick up his meal from Wendy’s. He’s frustrated that Daly Dining Hall’s menu has changed, limiting students’ choices for food.

Monahan isn’t alone. The same inconveniences have popped up for other students, including concerns about social distancing in dining halls.

The issues aren’t going unnoticed by the university. Assistant Vice President of Auxiliary Services Andrew Pignataro said that the school is keeping “students at the forefront of service.”

Pignataro acknowledged that the university is still trying to communicate with students about the changes to dining hours, including the Daly Dining Hall to-go feature not being available on the weekends. Instead, students have to walk into the dining hall and grab to-go food from the food stations.

The limited options and cut back hours have disappointed senior political science major Matthew Schantin in his first time back to campus since spring 2020. The drawn back hours leave “no real late-night option” for students, making weekends more difficult. He has also been frustrated by the lack of options for students with dietary restrictions.

“Options at Daly [Dining Hall] have been severely limited, especially for those who don’t eat meat,” said Schantin.

Monahan has noticed large groups of students gathering in dining areas, specifically at Cranberry’s and Starbucks. Despite these transgressors, he said that a majority of students he sees are adhering to social distancing mandates.

Social distancing measures have been taken seriously, according to Pignataro.

With tables spread apart and the dining room broke off into sections, the university can accommodate 233 people in Daly Dining Hall — an occupancy count that is monitored by the university’s dining app. While staff does wipe down tables and chairs and watches for clusters of people, Pignataro said it is a shared responsibility to keep everyone safe.

Over the past few years, the university has made major changes to dining areas, large investments that unfortunately coincided with the onslaught of the pandemic.

Only a limited number of students have been on campus to use the new facilities, with around 895 students living on campus this semester, according to the university.

The dining services will hope to be a large draw for prospective students in the coming semesters. With the university battling enrollment challenges and budget issues, the improved quality of the dining system will be a focal point.

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