Since there are no longer engagements as the spring semester has almost finished, students who run out of money and are tired of all the same restaurants are now heading for student cafeterias to have a meal at a relatively cheap price. Yet, student cafeterias do not seem that popular in Korea University (KU), as complaints about the poor taste and quite an expensive price are overflowing. Therefore, when the 46th Korea University Student Association (KUSA) started its term, it made a pledge to improve them.
▲ The interior of the newly renovated Living Plaza Cafeteria.
Disgruntled voices about student cafeterias have long been passed from students’ lips and, finally, one posted on the student’s' online community of KU, Koreaps. One user, named “Scandal”, who had no choice but to go to the Alumni Hall Student Cafeteria in the interest of time, accused the cafeteria of charging an exorbitant price for such food, describing his situation as “being tortured by food”. This accusation representatively showed the students’ anger at the Alumni Hall Cafeteria and further at the Living Plaza Cafeteria, located in the area of the Science Campus.
Until now, KUSA has not really intervened in the issue of student cafeterias, since Korea University Student Welfare Committee (KuWell) has a channel for dialogue about student cafeterias with the department of welfare of the school administration. “Nevertheless, since we, the 46th KUSA, consider solving the students’ inconvenience as a matter of the highest priority and noticed that opinions of students had not been actually reflected, we decided that this is the right time for us to come forward,” said Lee Na Young (’10, International Studies), a chief of the Education Welfare Support Bureau of the 46th KUSA.
▲ The reporter of The Granite Tower (GT) went to the Living Plaza Cafeteria and tasted the set menu of “Chef’s Table”.
KUSA first started the project by remodeling the Living Plaza Cafeteria. The main problem of the Living Plaza Cafeteria was the insanitary condition of the kitchen. The company, whose contract was terminated last year, filled up a kitchen drain, saying that a disgusting smell was coming from the sewer. As a result, when someone stepped on the floor of the kitchen, the rotten water under tiles was seeping out. Furthermore, the paint on the ceiling and the walls was all peeled off and covered with mold. Also, as the company withdrew from the building, it neglected all the broken cooking utensils and just dumped the responsibility on the school and the next company which would take over the business.
When the contract between the school and the original company finished, through the bidding process the department of welfare selected the new firm, CJ. The renovation, originally scheduled to start around the middle of January, was delayed since the whole construction plan needed to be amended from the simple interior decoration change and, thereby, it increased the construction expenses. Luckily, the school and CJ could reach an agreement and the construction began on February 15.
▲ Ticket vending machine.
Due to the delay of construction, students, who had used the Living Plaza Cafeteria, went through the inconvenience since when the spring semester of 2013 started, they were unable to use not only the Living Plaza Cafeteria but also the rest of the facilities in the Living Plaza. It, however, seems that waiting a month for the renovated cafeteria was worthy enough. Students no longer have to frown at the unhygienic condition of kitchen and food. Also, CJ accepted the students’ demand of installing a ticket vending machine where students can buy prepaid tickets by the bundle.
However, there is still no big change in the Alumni Hall Cafeteria, compared to the newly transformed cafeteria in the Science Campus. The main issues relating to the Alumni Hall Cafeteria brought up by students were that the menu was always the same and the quality of the food was not as good as the amount they paid. Compared to the cafeteria of the Student Union Building, students usually need to pay a few hundred won more for each menu, which usually ends up being 1,000~1,500 won more for each meal.
Not only the high price and the poor quality of the food, but the lack of professionalism is one of the complaints students make. “I am not just complaining about the price but I wonder whether they really want to do a business. When I go there after the peak time, many foods on the menu are even not ready to serve,” said Lee Hyun Min (’12, English Language Education). Likewise, students often face the situation which they cannot find the menu on the list or no substitute menu for the sold-out one.
To figure out the truth of all the complaints, the members of the 46th KUSA are now visiting the Alumni Hall cafeteria and gathering feedbacks from the students in order to suggest an improvement plan to the Student Alumni who manages the Alumni Hall Cafeteria.
Despite the efforts of KUSA, the fundamental problem relating to the high price of the student cafeteria appears to be hard to be solved. Student cafeterias of KU have the structural difficulty to decrease the price under a certain level since the rental fees from the private enterprises are used as scholarships. Unlike the other universities where the school financially supports the student cafeteria, KU’s student cafeterias operate without direct financial supports, and therefore have difficulties in decreasing the price or giving much higher quality food at the same price.
Though the difficulty exists, KUSA revealed their strong will to improve the quality of student cafeterias. “Improving the situation of those two cafeterias is our short-term aim, but, in the long-term view, we would try to make every cafeterias provide healthy and reasonably-priced meals,” said Lee revealing the 46th KUSA’s resolution.
▲ The inner structure of the Living Plaza Cafeteria.