Visitation hours, dining forum

Students at Valpo have a general idea that the current visitation and overnight guest policy is in place in order to be respectful, keep students safe and so the university is aware of everyone who is in the buildings.

Despite this, in a recent survey of 700 students, 73 percent believe the policy is currently too strict and are hoping to have it changed.

According to the survey, 70 percent of students taking it indicated they had a roommate and 83 percent believe opposite sex should be allowed to stay overnight.

The survey went out to transfers, commuters and residential students on behalf of Valpo Student Senate. The responses showed of the 700 students, ¼ of each of the classes had responded.

“What we’re focusing on with the visitation policy is having opposite sex partners in your room overnight because currently you can’t do that. Opposite sex partners have to leave by a certain time because we have one gendered halls,” said Student Senate Committee on Residence senator sophomore Ben Jacobs.

In order to address the concerns from the survey as well as answer other questions from students, Student Senate hosted a forum on Tuesday, Feb. 11. 

The forum was combined with another forum addressing Dining Services. Both senators had representatives from Residential Life and Parkhurst to address the student body.

Currently, students are concerned that the policy is not inclusive, outdated and heteronomormative.

One comment on the survey read ‘sexual relations between same gendered students exist, and this policy is extremely outdated and unnecessary.’ 

“So the issue we see here is while sexual relationships between the same genders are able to stay the night because technically they are the same gender, same gendered relationships are upset that this policy doesn’t acknowledge that these relationships exist on campus,” Jacobs said.

A lot of the concerns students highlighted in the survey have to do with safety, security and roommate conflicts. While it had come up in the survey, not a lot of students addressed religious beliefs being an issue with this current policy.

Being a Lutheran based institution is a factor in the proposed policy change. One student attending the forum asked if the fear of alumni or donor backlash had been discussed.

Assistant Dean of Students for Residential Life, Ryan Blevins, responded that while that is a factor in the potential policy change, it hasn’t yet been discussed further considering a conversation with administration hasn’t been held yet. Once the official policy suggestion is made, this is likely to play a key role in the conversation with administration. 

While Student Senate can’t make any changes, they are the ones who can propose changes that are overwhelmingly voted for by the student population.

“In my 12 years here, we’ve never revisited the policy; we haven’t been asked by students directly, until recently, to revisit the policy,” Blevins said. “I’m excited to sit down and actually start having this conversation because I believe the policy there are some gaps that need to be addressed one way or another.”

According to Blevins, nothing on the survey surprises him.

His concerns still are safety and security of the entire community while also addressing any roommate and community conflicts that might arise from any policy.

The current policy was made before Blevins began his time at Valpo. In order to accamodate students with roommates who wish to have a guest after visitation hours, a compromise was made with the residence halls when this policy was first introduced. 

“You can’t have visitation in the rooms, but if the floor votes 85 percent in the affirmative, they can have visitation in the lounge spaces,” Blevins said. 

A continued point brought up in the survey and at the forum was the fact that same gendered students can still be just as disruptive to the roommate after visitation hours are up, but, they are allowed in the room.

Blevins agrees with these statements, reassuring students multiple times that he believes it’s time to revisit the policy.

For other student’s it’s the wording of the policy itself that sends off alarm bells. 

Andrew Struckmann feels this current policy is transphobic and also forces RA’s to pass judgement about people’s gender.

“I’m not binary, so what is the opposite sex for me?” Struckmann said. 

Struckmann believes the current policy of no ‘opposite sex’ after certain hours or over night sounds like it would align what is legally allowed based on driver’s licenses. But, in Indiana you can have a non binary gender mark.

“If you have an RA who finds a disruptive room and knocks on the door… and it looks like there are students of multiple genders in there, but they’re actually all men, some of them are trans men. This forces closeted people to out themselves to ensure they don’t get punished for a rule they broke,” Struckmann said.

In addition, Struckmann wonders what separating specific genders at time intervals accomplishes. They question the difference of two genders being in a room at 12:05 a.m. versus 1:05 a.m.

“I find it absurd that the language ‘opposite sex’ is being used, and that it forces RA’s to make those calls and it also assumes that students doing something wrong just by existing,” Struckmann said.

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Parkhurst Dining was introduced to Valparaiso University in the beginning of the 2019-2020 academic school year.

Since the first week of classes, the new dining program has been under scrutiny by members of the Valpo student body.

Three concerns with the current dining options are quality of food, distribution of meal plans and seating in the dining facility.

In order to identify what needs to be changed with the Parkhurst Dining program, Student Senate initiated a dining committee who then emailed out a survey to the campus community.

Based on the student survey responses of 263 students, around 53 percent of students are either slightly dissatisfied or strongly dissatisfied with the current dining program.

47 percent of students who participated in the survey indicated they hadn’t had a positive experience in Founders.

“This is not ideal. I just want it to be known that Student Senate and myself as a student senator see and recognize this number and that’s a big reason that we’re having this forum here today,” Senator Isis Zaki said.

The purpose of organizing this forum was to give students a better understanding of what Parkhurst Dining is and what the company can do going forward as well as give a place for students to express concerns.

“I would love to hear what it is we need to do in order to move forward,” General Manager Lee Keener said. 

Keener is most proud of Parkhurst not being a cookie cutter company, meaning they have the ability to change based on what the needs are.

“We’re chef driven, guest driven,” Keener said. “It takes some time to learn what folks are looking for. We don't just want to come in and tell you what the program is, we want to be able to change on the fly.”

Keener goes on to say that in order for the program to grow and get better, they need continued feedback and suggestions.

One of the complaints Parkhurst often hears is that they aren’t moving forward and they aren’t making changes to what they offer at Valpo Dining despite saying they are.

“Right off the bat on the first week we identified that Chapel Break as one of the times there’s a lot of people coming in and eating food at the same time. On day two, we quickly adapted,” Keener said. 

On top of this, they changed hours of operation as well as offered later meal options to accommodate athletes. 

“We saw a lot of commuters walking by with coffee in their hands. Where are they going, why aren’t they coming here?” Keener questioned. “Well, we’re not open in time so we opened up earlier.”

Keener admits to making mistakes in the past half year of operation on Valpo’s campus, but believes he and his team have learned a lot from these mistakes.

Currently, Keener and Parkhurst are working to improve the options for the pick three and are open to other suggestions on creating a better flow in Founders as well as providing the options that students want.

A lot of the current comments and suggestions feel contradictory, according to Keener. Some students feel that there aren’t enough healthy options, while others also comment about how they wish Parkhurst would stop trying to make them eat healthier.

“I’m not going to use this as an excuse,” Keener said. “It’ll take some time. Our service motto is a little unique to the restaurant community.” 

Keener continues on by saying that Parkhurst’s goal is to please everybody, admitting it’s a daunting task but that he needs help from the community on more specific forms of feedback.

“When there is an opportunity to be specific, it’s great for us to hear ‘I like this,’” said District Manager Dean Schoenfeldt.

Schoenfeldt explains that the transition of what dining was to what is now is going to be uncomfortable. The current all you can eat option is what many believe to be a traditional meal setting in colleges.

“This environment brings comfort for most students about knowing where their next meal is coming from. A retail environment was causing a lot of distress about whether or not you buy a slice of pizza or a whole entree,” Schoenfeldt said.

Schoenfeldt acknowledges that there is a possibility the program can change and they must work together with the students to find the threshold of money that’s the right balance of dining dollars versus swipes. 

While Parkhurst is open to changes and wants to know more about what they can do, students are mostly concerned with the quality of food being provided as well as contamination. 

Chad Dykman, a Valpo student who enjoys cooking, expressed concern with the way Parkhurst Dining ensures the food is not undercooked, overcooked, stale or containing the wrong flavor pallet. 

“We’ve definitely had a couple of issues with undercooked food,” Keener said. “If it’s rice or undercooked potatoes, 100 percent we dropped the ball.”

In order to test the quality of food, Keener finds himself asking his chefs to try the foods they are preparing. Typically, the staff does meetings that include tastings of new foods they will soon offer the line.

“We need to do a better job of training and holding people accountable and as we get a solid footing with the team that we have here, we’re going to get better,” Keener said. 

Schoenfeldt also encourages that any disappointing dish be brought to the supervisor in that instance. This ensures the item is taken off the line right away, leaving less people disappointed and the item can be corrected.

Another student expressed concerns with the clean plate station and what that offers to students.

“A lot of time I go there and there’s pork, and I can’t eat that,” he said. “I’m told the clean plate is the place that I can feel safe in what I eat and I don’t feel safe going there.”

He goes onto explain that even if the pork is next to the chicken, which he can eat, a lot of people use the same utensils as they do when cutting slices of pizza with and without meat.

“That’s a problem not just for me and the muslims, but for the vegetarians and vegans,” the student continued. 

This contamination issue has also occurred at the ice cream station with students either using the same scoops or people reaching their whole arm in the ice cream bar.

One student suggested having an employee mandate the station because she has since stopped eating the ice cream at Founders she used to love due to this contamination issue. 

While Parkhurst is looking into what changes they can actually do with the Parkhurst Dining program, they express the importance of students being as specific as possible when giving concerns or suggestions as to what they want. 

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