The Commons has seen a consistent decrease in traffic since the beginning of the semester due to a reduction in mandatory student meal plans, according to university officials.
As of January 2017, full-time non-residential students can choose to purchase lower-cost meal plan options with fewer swipes as part of an initiative to phase out mandatory commuter meal plans by fall 2017. According to the Culinary & Hospitality Services website, the new meal plans were reduced from $475 to $325 for full-time freshman and from $84 to $76 for sophomores and juniors. Seniors are no longer required to purchase a meal plan.
As a result, The Commons has seen a 17-28 percent decrease in traffic over the past three months, according to Kelly Johnston, a spokeswoman for KSU Auxiliary Services. Johnston reported that an average of 529 fewer students visited the campus eatery in February 2017 than in the same month last year.
Additionally, Johnston said that Culinary & Hospitality Services will not be planning any more changes to student meal plans at any time in the near future unless student concerns arise. In response, however, The Commons has begun closing its second-floor seating area every evening at 4 p.m. due to a lack of demand.
“The second level of The Commons was designed for overflow seating during busy times,” said Shane Collins, assistant director of Meal Operations. “With the reduction in guests we are serving each day, we have been able to accommodate everyone in our main dining space after 4 p.m.”
Johnston explained that the closure allows The Commons to be more operationally efficient.
“By closing the upstairs area of The Commons at 4 p.m., we are able to shift staff to our busy retail dining locations, resulting in better service to our students,” Johnston said.
Some students, like sophomore economics major Katy Ludwik, said they are disappointed by the new closure policy.
“It can be inconvenient to come later in the afternoon and see that it has been closed,” Ludwik said. “I prefer to take my food and my classwork up there because it feels a lot less crowded and it’s easier for me to concentrate on whatever I’m doing.”
Likewise, some students expressed that they miss having the second floor open and hope to see a change in the new rule soon.
“Usually me and my study group like to use the upstairs in the evenings, maybe once a week, to go over notes and assignments after our classes, but recently we’ve had to meet somewhere else,” said junior English education major Natalie Turpin. “There is just no room and it’s too loud to get a group together to study on the bottom floor.”
Other students visiting The Commons, however, did not even notice the second floor being closed.
“I don’t think I’ve ever even been up to the second floor except when I was here for orientation,” said freshman theater and performance studies major Georgia Rohlfs. “I see no problem with them closing it if they need to.”
Collins said that, if there are any students or study groups looking to use the second floor of The Commons after 4 p.m., dining services would be happy to accommodate them upon request.