A survey of campus services has been launched by Imperial College Union following “significant changes” to Imperial’s catering and dining facilities. The move comes more than two months after the College’s Campus Services implemented changes without consulting staff or students. The changes are largely cost-cutting measures. These include reducing menu options, portion sizes, and opening hours, in addition to replacing F-EAST in the Junior Common Room with Japanese outlet Tanpopo.
The Imperial College website claims that these changes will benefit the wider community. It also makes note of how much investment in catering facilities costs, making a point to mention “these services operate at a loss” and are heavily subsidised. Despite this, Imperial’s 2015-16 accounts reported an overall surplus income of £84.5 million.
The website adds that the changes should have a minimal impact on students and staff. However, as Felix reported this August, postgraduate students and staff were displeased when the Senior Common Room stopped serving breakfast. Since then, complaints have continued to come in, with one Imperial academic telling Felix: “I have received several complaints from our students: they usually only get one hour to eat between lectures and are not happy to spend their lunch break in a queue or finding a seat. They do not have time to eat and relax.”
He added: “The other day I tried to get my lunch at 12.15, between two meetings, and I only had 30 minutes to eat. I usually grab a sandwich at the JCR but that was not an option because of the massive queues. I tried several other food outlets with no luck – there were long queues everywhere. I went to my meeting with an empty stomach and had lunch at 2pm.” The College told Felix that they “aim to provide the best possible service and experience for our staff and student community.”
The Union told Felix that they were conducting the Campus Services Feedback survey “to better understand the opinions of our members regarding the changes which occurred over the summer to the Campus Services outlets, and to gain a deeper insight into the consumer habits across the Imperial community.”
The Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) has urged Imperial to listen to students’ feedback and reconsider the changes. In a statement, the GSU told Felix: “These changes, although financially rational on the College’s part, send the wrong message to our postgraduate community, especially considering how much we value equal provision and opportunities for both undergraduate and postgraduate students. Many students have approached us expressing a feeling of neglect.”
In a statement from the Union, a representative said that “With a good response rate from our members and from College staff, we will be better placed to lobby College to adapt the services to better serve our members and challenge them when appropriate.”
Launching the feedback survey is a step in the right direction. Aside from gathering demographic information, it asks student which outlets they use and when, as well as when they would like to use the outlets. There are no mentions of other issues raised by staff and students – such as the changes to Ethos’ opening hours – although a comment box is provided at the end of the survey.
The survey is available at: http://www.imperialcollegeunion.org/CSFeedback.