Jan 272008

More than 100 students gathered in Newsom Hall Sunday night, many trying to find the reason behind the pending closing of Newsom’s dining center. It seems, however, that compromise has been achieved.

Tensions rose during the hour-long discussion, during which students questioned the motives of Dining and Housing Services, who announced their plans to close Newsom’s dining center earlier this semester. The hall is still scheduled to close after Spring Break, but Deon Lategan, Director of Dining Services, has agreed to host continental breakfast at Newsom after the closing of the dining hall.

“I’m willing to try some sort of continental breakfast here,” Lategan said.

Lategan’s announcement came at the end of the discussion, a suggestion appealed to him by several students, including Paul Wade, President of Newsom Hall Council. Wade addressed the idea in his closing statement.

“I’m absolutely happy,” Wade said, following Lategan’s announcement. “That’s exactly what we were looking for. We know everyone cannot be satisfied.”

Discussion opened with statements from Lategan, Wade, and Mary Ellen Sinwell, director of Residence Life, regarding the situation. A question-and-answer session followed, and tensions quickly bounded.

Students expressed their concern over the loss of a part of their home, as the dining hall was directly connected to the dorm.

“It’s quiet, it’s relaxed, it’s a little piece of home,” Wade said in his opening statement.

Lategan said that while he could appreciate such sentiment, the need for growth would be stifled with an outdated apartment, and that with a limited staff, keeping Newsom’s dining hall open was not a feasible option once the new dining hall opened its doors.

“If we live in a sheltered environment, we will never try anything new,” Lategan said. “It’s not possible for us to do both.”

Sinwell agreed with Lategan, noting that as a growing community, CSU needed “to be progressive in our thinking.”

Lategan discussed the Presidential Strategic Plan, which included ideas for more up-to-date and efficient housing and dining services.

“One of (the president’s) goals is to add 5,000 students to campus,” said Lategan.

The new dining hall in the Academic Village, called Ram’s Horn, will seat 900 students. Newsom has a capacity of only 356.

As Lategan and Sinwell revealed new plans for giving a face-lift to outdated dorms, the crowd’s intensity heightened, as the two were accused of going without answering students’ questions. Some frustrated students started shouting from the crowd.

“You are avoiding the question,” said Andy Moores, a double major in business and electronic engineering. “We want to talk about Newsom.”

Trying to help tame the crowd, Peter Frost, a freshman biochemistry major, asked the crowd to be respectful and reminded students.

“They didn’t have to come listen to us,” Frost said.

The issues students raised regarded the lack of communication between the students and Dining and Housing Services. Lategan said that it had been known for two years that Newsom would close sometime in 2008. Several students expressed their frustration, stating that they should have been informed of the decision prior to signing up for Newsom.

While many students applauded the achieved compromise between students and staff, some were left unsatisfied.

“I like the compromise, but to be honest, I think they ignored the issue of capacity and went for the issue of employment,” said Erin Smith, a freshman art major.

Staff writer Kaeli West can be reached at news@collegian.com

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