UTPB president fields questions about bad food, bad odors

Complaints and questions about the food, bad odors and mold in the residence dining hall and counseling services were answered during Sandwiches and Smoothies with Sandy in the Student Activity Center at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin.

Reading from an answer from the Director of Physical Plant Jay Haney, President Sandra Woodley said pipes were cut during construction and cleanout covers were never completed allowing bad odors to enter the building.

Woodley said Haney wrote that everything found so far has been repaired. The physical plant team has opened up the ceilings and walls and found no evidence of mold.

“According to Jay and their investigation, it really came from incomplete construction techniques. He says he will continue to monitor the building and make the necessary repairs,” Woodley said.

She added that Haney said students should continue to report issues they encounter because they can’t fix what they don’t know about.

“We’re going to do whatever it takes to make sure the odors are gone when we can find them,” Woodley said.

Multiple complaints have been lodged about the food at the residence dining hall from upper classmen, but especially freshmen who are required to purchase a meal plan.

Woodley said UTPB is working with Chartwells, which provides the food service, on this.

She said officials met with Chartwells about 10 days ago and they admitted there were problems with the food service, problems with paying employees and employees leaving as a result.

“They’re trying to fix business processes so they can have the staff they need to handle the food problems,” Woodley said.

She said there have been instances where catering was ordered and didn’t show up on multiple occasions.

She added that UTPB has a contract with Chartwells over the next four years.

“We want to be good partners and we expect them to be good partners, as well,” Woodley said.

She said she would like feedback on if the situation is getting better or worse.

Woodley said UTPB has also talked to Chartwells about bringing in Chick-fil-A or some other food service to the Student Activity Center.

On another item, Woodley said she has a $3.2 million request to the UT System Board of Regents to renovate the Student Activity Center, including secure card access services so it can become a 24-hour study space.

“We’ll be looking to purchase modern furniture and technology and screens and the ability for you to have this 24-hour study space. So we want to have food service in this facility, at least until 10 or 11 o’clock at night and something good; some hot meals for you to have when you’re in here and studying. That is part of the strategy, too,” Woodley said.

The recent tuition and fee increase approved by the Board of Regents will allow more revenue particularly for need-based financial aid. Woodley said part of that will include the cost of attending the university and housing.

The university is working on a long-term strategic plan and setting priorities.

“We have strong programs throughout the university. Once the macro plans are put in place, then I think it’s wonderful to have an opportunity to really dig down under and get the deans, the department chairs, the faculty and students and say what’s really right about each program and have microplans in each of the departments,” Woodley said.

Part of the microplanning is strategic plans in each of the program levels to determine how UTPB can market them to bring in new students and the best faculty to grow those programs.

Woodley also wants to look at what’s working and what’s not.

On the mental health aspect, some students had said the counseling center on campus is hard to find and there is talk about moving it to the SAC.

Counseling Center Director Amanda Goza said she has heard that people like the counseling center location and others don’t. Goza said services are provided for students, faculty and staff.

“We do individual therapy services; sometimes group when we identify a common need that a lot of people seem to be coming in for. Last year, we had an anger management group,” Goza said.

“We do family therapy. We do couples therapy, so basically we run the course of any kind of individual or group or couples kind of therapy. We also work with our community. We also do testing for ADHD (and) learning disabilities,” she added.

She said the center can also counsel students on career decisions and opportunities.

There also is 24-hour crisis intervention and the center works with the campus police.

On a separate item, Woodley said UTPB is about to hire a dean for the College of Engineering. She said there are two finalists and she expects to make an announcement by the end of April.

The new engineering building near the Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center is expected to be finished by fall 2019, Woodley said, and UTPB will break ground on the new kinesiology building this summer.

“We’re finishing up final design phases. We go back to board of regents in May to finalize the project scope and all of the design. We’re in the process of selecting the construction company. We’ll probably have all that done by May and then we’re off to the races,” Woodley said.