To the residents of the UHDS community.
I have received a number of questions this year about our decision to reduce the hours of operation in the dining centers this year. I first want to acknowledge that we understand the challenge limiting hours can create for students who have very full schedules with classes, athletics, jobs or other time commitments. It can also simply be inconvenient for those students who prefer to eat whenever they want to eat. Having said that, we felt it was important to share more of the story about some very difficult decisions we had to make this year with regard to our overall budget.
It is important for folks to know that University Housing & Dining Services (UHDS) is a self-funded auxiliary organization whose primary source of revenue is from the sale of room and meal contracts. The department does not receive funds from the university nor from the State of Oregon to support the operation. As an auxiliary, UHDS is mandated to contribute annually into building and equipment reserve accounts in order to fund major renovations needed to keep each of the residence halls, cooperative houses and family housing apartments up to current standards. In addition, many of our facilities were built in the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s and have needed significant renovation and infrastructure upgrades. Those expenses in addition to rising operating expenses have created pressure to increase room and meal rates.
For further context, the primary operating expenses of UHDS are food, labor and capital improvement expenses. As you would guess, the longer the dining facilities are open, the more the food and labor costs will increase. Since most of our dining income is fixed given how the room and board is billed, there is not a positive correlation between the number residents utilizing the dining center and the income that brings to the department. Although we can always look for and find creative solutions to work more efficiently and effectively, it many times comes down to the simple equation of income and expense. As such, to meet the increasing expenses, we have a choice of either increasing the overall rates to the students or reducing some of the major expenses which in turn translates into a reduction in some services.
Because this was ultimately going to effect the residents, we wanted to gain input from the students before the decision was made. In a meeting with student resident leaders of the Residence Hall Association last spring, the student representatives clearly articulated that holding room and meal rates as low as possible was a top priority. In order to help minimize the increase in rates to students, UHDS made the decision to reduce some areas of service instead of passing on the full brunt of the additional expense to residential students. As part of this decision, a number of positions were eliminated and hours of operation were reduced. Closing dining operations at 10:00pm instead of 1:00am allowed UHDS to save enough money to replace roofs on two residence halls and replace the furniture in another.
Many residents are probably already aware of what dining options are open after 7pm but students are encouraged to check out the following website for current hours: http://oregonstate.edu/foodatosu/full-hours. What you will find there is that 10 of the 17 UHDS restaurant or convenience store operations are open past 7:00pm. And while again we acknowledge that these hours might not meet everyone’s dining expectations, we felt it was important to share that the folks at UHDS are working hard to be good stewards of your room and meal dollars.
~Rich Turnbull, Associate Director of Housing & Dining Services