UNC’s campus took a turn for the hungrier this week after the dramatic close of Tobey-Kendel dining room. Wednesday September 29, papers at Tobey-Kendel dining room went up declaring that the hall would be closing for the remainder of the year starting after dinner Sunday, October 3. Many students, especially those who live on central campus, are outraged about the short notice, absolute closure and downgraded options for meal swipes. In response to this adverse reaction, UNC’s Student Senate held a special town hall meeting for students to voice their concerns to members of UNC administration. There was no formal communication with Student Senate members, as some found out through social media channels, the fliers that were posted, and general rumors.
The meeting, which took place in Candelaria Hall 1260, was also supposed to address issues that have come to the attention of the student senate concerning health and safety issues at the University Flats apartments. The meeting was attended by many residents and resident assistants from the Mesa neighborhood, where TK is housed. The students who asked questions and made comments all had one thing in common: a demand for some sort of middle ground that does not completely leave students who have class and live on Central Campus without dining.
Particularly outspoken groups include students from the Performing and Visual Arts college, RAs and students with concerns about disability resources concerning the closure. While the closure creates inconvenience for everyone, these groups particularly voiced their concerns about their dining options. PVA students who spoke mostly had the experience of lots of credit hours with very little time to eat in the first place. With the closure of TK, this leaves PVA students in Frasier Hall for much of their day without time to make the hike across campus to eat at Holmes Hall. RAs spoke both on their concern about their residents that they keep an eye over as well as their concerns that their compensation of food and board has now been reduced.
Many students with disabilities, as well as those with friends with disabilities, spoke up about their concerns about the 0.8 mile walk that can be difficult to complete for some. There were also mentions of food insecurity for those who need to take medication with food or are recovering from eating disorders who need to be able to get food at short notice.
Responses came mostly from Tobias Guzmán, Interim Vice President of Student Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer, and Meagan Johnson, Director of Dining. While Jenna Finley, Executive Director of Student Affairs and Director of Housing and Residential Education was present in the meeting on Zoom, she did not speak up to answer any questions or turn on her camera. Also present were President Andy Feinstein and executive chef Endion Williams, who also spoke up a few times to clarify answers, but did not formally answer any specific questions.
Guzmán claimed responsibility for the poor communication on this topic, and UNC administration as a whole expressed their apologies to students. The group of administration promised that there would be a meeting on Thursday morning to discuss grievances brought up at the meeting and that students and staff would have more information by the end of this week. The meeting did not get around to the topic of the University Flats because time ran out and the meeting had lasted almost three hours.