The planned construction of new dormitories should be the impetus for the University of Wyoming to move away from “block”-style dining options, both President Laurie Nichols and Vice President for Student Affairs Sean Blackburn said at the Board of Trustees’ Thursday budget committee meeting.
UW’s administrators are banking on the Wyoming Legislature to approve a plan in 2019 to demolish and rebuild all the university’s dorms.
With student housing being addressed by a legislative task force, Blackburn said UW will need to simultaneously revamp the school’s dining options.
Meal plans for students who live on campus are overwhelming driven by admissions to the Washakie Dining Center using blocks, which gives students a certain number of “all-you-can-eat” admissions each week to the cafeteria.
“One large all-you-can-eat facility with blocks is an old-fashioned plan,” Blackburn said. “We need to modernize our dining plans.”
Blackburn said the university is currently conducting two internal studies exploring possible dining options and he plans to present an “action plan” at the Board of Trustees’ November meetings on recommended changes.
“We’ll probably leave facilities out of it except to note that we need a variety of facilities,” Blackburn said.
Both he and Nichols said the location of new dining facilities needs to be carefully coordinated with the location of new dorms.
“There’s whole pockets of our campus where we don’t have food service,” Nichols said. “We don’t even have a good coffee shop on campus and we’re losing money.”
Because food service is difficult to make financially viable, Nichols said the university will likely need to hire a consultant to ensure the new system isn’t a drain on UW’s bank accounts.
“I’m of the opinion that we can be doing much, much better and we need some help to get there,” Nichols said.
Trustees on the budget committee expressed support for quickly developing new dining options in the coming months.
“I feel that a well-fed army fights better,” Trustee Dick Scarlett said. “I feel it’s very critical that we address this and move it along so we’re not sitting here in March and April still just getting plans on what we’re going to do.”