UBCO’s newest resident building, Nechako, officially opened its doors to residents this fall. There are now students living in the 220 bedrooms and eating in the 450 seat dining hall. Additionally, the “Nechako building is what is called a Housing Commons – meaning it provides common spaces for all students living in on-campus housing,” stated Shannon Dunn, the director of business operations. She also mentioned that “there is a 24 hour front desk, study spaces, music practice rooms, recreation and games rooms. The offices to support student housing, conferences services, food services and parking services are all located within the building as well.”
Students were interviewed to find out what was working and not working at Nechako and Pritchard. Of the students who were interviewed (all of them first years), their favorite thing about Nechako was the overall atmosphere of the place. Some mentioned that it was the prime location for people-watching as many students come and go through the doors of the building. Others thought the design was modern and clean, mentioning that the gigantic windows overlooked a nice view. And, the furniture is comfortable, which is especially important for those who sit and study for hours in the building.
“This is a central hub for all residents to socialize,” said one of the first years, noting that residents did not have this space prior to Nechako opening. Although there are some open areas where non-residents are allowed to roam, and anyone can eat at Pritchard, all of the rooms—such as the quiet study spaces, the games room, and the gym—are restricted to those who have the stark white residence cards. According to Dunn, “The Nechako Housing Commons is paid for through the fees residents pay.” Therefore, it is only fair that the spaces are specifically for residents to enjoy.
Having interviewed the students; however, many of them mentioned that their cards work for some spaces but not for others, and assume the other spaces are only for those who reside in Nechako. Others who were not living in Nechako claimed they could get into wherever they wanted. There seems to be a cloud of doubt hovering over this issue of inclusivity and accessibility.
As for Pritchard, the dining hall, residents are forced to eat there whether they like it or not as the mandatory meal plan has now changed to an “all-you-can-eat” meal plan designed for Nechako only. Residents have to pay a flat rate of more than $5000 dollars at the beginning of the year and are then allowed access to the dining hall whenever they want for whatever they want. The flex dollars on their plan can be used at any of the other on-campus eateries and some off-campus partners.
For students who do not qualify for the mandatory meal plan, they can purchase the optional meal plan for the same price, or they can buy a set amount of swipes that is added to their UBC card. If students want to visit the dining hall every once in a while to try the food, they can also pay at the front. It is $9 for breakfast, $13 for lunch, and $17 for dinner (plus tax).
Moreover, the gigantic dining hall features a buffet style cafeteria. There are different stations that students can visit and find a variety of food. There is a salad bar, a pizza and pasta area, a bakery section and more. The interviewees’ favorite part about Pritchard were the fries (apparently “they slap”). Students have access to food until 11pm, when Pritchard closes. There are various nutritious options as well as dietary-friendly alternatives such as vegan and gluten free. Some students mentioned that the staff is friendly. They wanted to give a special shout out to Sally in particular for making an impression.
What the students did not like about Pritchard are the small portion sizes. According to them, the food is not prepared as efficiently as it should. For example, someone found a chicken bone in their quesadilla and another discovered melted plastic in their hash browns. Additionally, the options are quite consistent, with an infrequent change in meal options. This can get tiring for the students who eat there everyday. The stations offering hot and fresh food close for about two hours at certain times of the day to prepare for the next course. Some classes end at odd times and students might only be able to eat during those closed times. Finally, there aren’t always labels for the dietary preferences and students will likely have to constantly ask if a certain meal they are offering is vegan or gluten-friendly.
In response to the topic of small portion sizes, Shannon Dunn explained, “By having a smaller portion size, someone doesn’t get more than they need and more than what they’ll eat.” The purpose of the small portions, then, is to help with minimizing food waste. Dunn added, “The goal of the smaller portion sizes is not to reduce how much people eat, but to help reduce the waste of uneaten food.”
If you want to make your opinions known about Pritchard, you can fill in a survey here.
With the 12 google reviews giving the dining hall an overall rating of 1.8 stars, it sounds like the students are not too happy with the dining hall. However, there is one glowing review that is absolutely hilarious. It gives Pritchard a five star rating and comments in the most sarcastically sophisticated manner. The student starts the rating by stating, “Pritchard is one of the greatest locations on Campus, if not the province of British Columbia or Canada as a whole.
They meticulously arrange for within their delectables, all maintained solely to the most prestigious standards. A commoner might perceive their offerings as merely "food," but such is the bourgeoisie interpretation and one truly and necessarily must broaden their view to really spectate the tastes of the spectrum in the cutting edge culinary arts which Pritchard provides for.
They serve not "food," but rather esteemed dreams and raw vigorous passion to flabbergast your ingresses and overwhelm the senses.” You can find the rest of the review here.
With the opening of Nechako and Pritchard, necessary additions for the ever-growing community at UBCO, the residents now have a space that is mostly theirs to connect with other residents, even though all students can enjoy the open areas and the dining hall. Students’ helpful opinions highlight both the good and the bad about the first few months of the new building. Hopefully, with more time and feedback, the dining hall will improve.