Is Faqra Catering much worse than its predecessor?
by Mohammad Hijazi
This article was published in Outlook, AUB's Official Student Newspaper on March 23, 2010.
One of the most advertised events that occurred last week was the Cafeteria Sit-in organized by the USFC, which only lasted around ten minutes and attracted far less students than expected. This was a great opportunity to interview students who where around at that time about this matter. The main question behind this investigation was: Do students really care about the cafeteria? Yet, this question opened many doors to other issues related to the cafeteria and Faqra Catering- the current service.
Biology junior Abeer Mahfouz described the sit-in as useless. "We've managed to survive without the cafeteria," she said. "There are much more important issues for the USFC to protest about. These include the decreasing number of printers in Jafet library, the huge increase in internet fees, and HIP coverage which is very useless." Biology senior Elia El Haber also believes that there are other priorities. "Of course there are more important issues to protest about, like the recent increase in tuition fees and decrease in on-campus shuttle timings. But even the matters that interest most of the student body, such as the cafeteria, attracted very few protesters and for little time. We were there at 12.20 pm and sadly, we were the only ones standing. A sit-in should have a more striking position, especially if it involves the whole student body."Education senior Nadine Ghaith was there during the cafeteria sit-in. She described the scene as a "heroic act of nothingness. Taking down the green 'Under Construction' banner was like taking down the statue of an unpopular political leader." She explained that the sit-in will not make a difference, especially that it was very short-lived. In accordance with that, Psychology sophomore Lojine Kamel believes that "the cafeteria sit-in, though admirable, was pointless. In the end, it's not the students but the administration who decides and one day of protesting won't make them move any faster."
Business senior Sahar Makki demonstrated utter disapproval of the cafeteria's condition, whether in the past or present. "It doesn't matter that there is no cafeteria because it definitely won't be up to par." She continued to express her disapproval of Faqra Catering, their branches (OSB, Hostler), and their quality.
Third year Graphic Design student Nadine Chehade said, "Last year, I used to grab something to eat from the main cafeteria since it was almost always on my way from a class to another. Now that it is closed, I can't replace it with Hostler which is never on my way, nor with that of engineering, which is currently also closed for renovations." Moreover, she describes the current cafeteria as a "bus/truck that is out of place, out of context, even if it is there just temporarly. It always makes me lose my appetite and I end up getting food from outside AUB."
Food science graduate student Loulwa Kalash actually agrees with the concept of the sit-in. "There's nothing to lose but there is a lot to win if we got our voices heard," she said. "For me, its one of my priorities since I care about my food and where to eat everyday. Health is very important and food is basically an issue that determines your health state." Yet, she complains about the Hostler branch since its always so crowded. "It has a very inefficient spacing if we consider the wide space surrounding it. It's just a waste on architecture but no efficient space to accommodate students, staff, and faculty."
In addition to the reasons mentioned above, many students are hesitant about the presentation and quality of the food in all branches. Kalash confirms this by saying that she doesn't like how they display their food. "It makes me uncomfortable and hesitant if I want to eat [from them]. I mean its not a closed environment." Biology senior Elie Fares agrees by saying, "I have never tried their plat-du-jour because I basically don't think it looks good." He continues to say that "Faqra catering, in comparison to USM, is utter rubbish. You cannot even begin to compare the quality of service between the two: salad bars, better payment services, more food diversity, friendlier-looking employees, etc..." El Haber also believes that the older catering system was much better. "The new Faqra system has less variety, less availability, no freshness, and they are not cheap at all comparing to the quality they are serving," she said.
Fares also complained about the supply of food being produced each day. "Food runs out really fast and you don't have a constant supply of food coming in, so if it's over and there's nothing else you want to - or can eat - around, you're screwed."
In conclusion, it is very noticeable that most of the students are not satisfied with the current condition of the cafeteria. The closure of the main cafeteria might not have affected all the students, however they are all dissatisfied with Faqra Catering's food diversity, quality, and hygiene. "Graduating without a decent cafeteria is rather depressing," says Fares