Hot Takes: What Students Think of New Lowry Student Center

Emma Shinker – Features Editor

Last Saturday, The Wooster Voice sent a survey to the student body asking students to
share their experiences with the newly renovated Lowry Student Center and new dining
contractor, Creative Dining Services. Respondents were asked to rate 9 different aspects of the remodel and the switch in food services out of 5 stars. They were then given a chance to explain their answers. The survey brought in 321 responses. 

Variety of Food (2.98 average rating)
The variety of food received a very mixed response. “Sometimes I think the variety of
food is great, other times it seems like only a couple things look even remotely appetizing,” commented Emma Downing ’24. Other students, such as Alexis Kelbley ’23, were disappointed in the lack of consistent options. “They have the same food every week!” they said. “And my safe options (i.e. the sandwich station that had quesadillas and good sandwich options and stir fry) are no longer there.” Another common response was that stations are frequently closed, making it difficult to access a variety of food.

Taste/Quality of Food (3.34 average rating)
Student opinion in this category was extremely varied, with some students unhappy with
bland dishes and undercooked meat, and others excited about what they saw as an improvement from previous years. Seth Whitehead ’24 commented that “the quality has become less predictable,” which seemed to be a trend, with many students writing about both positive and negative experiences.

Accessing Menus/Using the FD Meal Planner App (2.62 average rating)
While many students said that they hadn’t used or didn’t know about the app, others
raised questions about its usefulness. “Many of the listed options are unavailable in the dining hall, hours for meals are not listed, and the app has extra things to click on before you can even see the menu,” said Lauren Kreeger ’23. “Additionally, ingredients can differ from what’s listed, or be unavailable to read.” Some respondents also pointed out that the menus for both Knowlton and Boo Bear’s are no longer accessible. Not everyone has had a bad experience, though. Kelsey Mize ’26 said the app “is easy to access and has the menus laid out very nicely.”

Seating/Dining Experience (3.97 average rating)
Many of the responses to this prompt were contradictory. The addition of booths, the
amount of seating and the ability to easily eat with a large group all received both positive and negative comments. Linnea Kedziora ’22 said, “I like the little booths that are the perfect size for one or two people,” but Ava Siegel ’25 thought the atmosphere was “overwhelming, cramped and loud.” Students also noted that the layout of the dining areas is more complicated, resulting in crowds and confusion. That being said, numerous responses complimented the look of the new building.

Access to Food Options Past 8 p.m. (2.49 average rating)
The main concern with access to food past 8 p.m. was the lack of variety, especially for
students that want healthy options. Other students worried about only being able to spend flex dollars after 8 p.m. However, many expressed hope that the options would increase with the opening of the basement of the renovated building and the relaunch of the C-store.

Sustainability (2.34 average rating)
Most comments about sustainability regarded the frequent use of plastic cups and plates,
though many students noted that they recognized that understaffing has been an issue. Although students were disappointed with the amount of single-use plastic, some were happy that the “real” plates and silverware were coming into the rotation occasionally. 

Building Accessibility (4.17 average rating)
Though this category received a higher rating than any other, many students noted that
because they were able-bodied, they were not able to accurately or fully evaluate the
accessibility of the building. Despite this, some concerns were brought up about the long lines stretching outside and the lack of a button to open the main doors. Others were excited about the dining hall’s new location on the first floor. 

Access to Vegetarian/Vegan/Allergen-free Options Relative to Previous Years (2.92
average rating)
While some students expressed discontent with the lack of vegetarian and vegan options
(and the disappearance of the campus favorite vegan chocolate chip cookies), some were
satisfied. Allergen-free options were a similar story. “While they added the Zone, they took away many other foods that gluten free people could eat,” said Ellen McAllister ’24. “It has been very difficult to find a balanced meal.” Other students worried about the open containers of nuts and the fact that full ingredient lists are not easily available.

The Wooster Voice reached out to Marjorie Shamp, Director of Campus Dining, about
student concerns. “Unfortunately, we were provided with a very short window of time to set up and move into Lowry Dining Hall,” Shamp responded. “This has us very far behind in getting organized, and we are still receiving training on some pieces of equipment, and need to hire additional staff to support this large facility.” Though not all of the new equipment is operational at this time, Shamp said campus dining has “a great menu planned with more stations open and a great variety, so stay tuned.” The opening of MacLeod’s Convenience Store and Coffee Bar on Sept. 10 will provide options for meals such as “grab-and-go sandwiches and salads, hot sandwiches, smoothies, coffee drinks and more,” Shamp added, explaining that this will hopefully reduce lines and provide more late-night options. The FD Meal Planner app is also a work in progress. “We are
still working on loading our menu information into the software that supports FD Meal Planner. This will improve.”

Overall, the survey demonstrated the wide range of attitudes on campus towards the
campus center renovation and the switch to Creative Dining Services. The impacts of the
changes in regard to accessibility, seating, sustainability and food options are all up for debate as Campus Dining adjusts to the new year.

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