Emaan Bangash
Mercury Staff

Relocation of utensil dispensers cause confusion, concern

Utensil dispensers in the Student Union were returned to their original locations after students voiced their concerns about their relocation.

After the dispensers were moved behind the counters of the nearby restaurants last month, students had to ask the cashiers for utensils.

Computer science senior Sai Srinadhgatram emailed Student Government President JW Van Der Schans after the utensil dispensers were relocated. He posted the response from Van Der Schans on Reddit and persuaded a few other students to contact SG to resolve the issue.

“I thought it was pretty inconvenient because a large portion of this school does commute,” Srinadhgatram said. “I can bring a spoon from home, but a lot of the days I forget and I don’t want to be the guy cutting the line and being like, ‘Hey, pardon me I just need a spoon.’”

Four students, including Srinadhgatram, contacted Van Der Schans following the relocation of the utensils. Van Der Schans then contacted Carrie Chutes, director of Food and Retail Services, and discussed the issue further with the food advisory committee in a monthly meeting.

Steven Goodwin, resident district manager of UTD Dining Services, said the decision was to reduce the cost of buying utensils and improve the customer experience by shortening the lines to get a utensil.

William Boyd, director of Dining Services and Retail, said the electronic dispensers would often be unusable. Students would tamper with the machines and open them up to get more than one fork or spoon.

“We’ve had multiple times where students would come empty the stock and they’re not a paying customer, which makes it very difficult,” Boyd said.

Boyd said an employee would often be standing near the dispensers at all times to repair and replenish them when they were opened up and emptied. After relocating the dispensers, the cost of supplying the utensils was cut by 50 percent.

When students began sending their concerns to the Dining Services, the machines were returned for student convenience. The food chain workers in the SU will continue to hand out utensils to maintain efficiency and reduce the length of lines.

Boyd said these decisions are normally made during monthly Food Advisory Committee meetings, which usually have around 2 to 3 students attending. The next meeting will take place on Dec. 5 in SSA 14.265 at noon, where students meet over lunch and discuss their ideas and make decisions with the staff on how to improve the dining services at UTD.

“Ultimately, we’re here for your experience and we want to make sure that you are getting what you’re wanting, but we don’t know if we are if you’re not voicing your opinions,” Boyd said.