Photo by Julia Kelley

 Amongst athletes at Otterbein University, there has been widespread concern about the accessibility of food during their respective seasons at the Campus Center’s dining hall. 

“It’s tough coming out of practice late and not being able to get a meal,” said Benny Tobias, a senior political science major and a four-year letterman in men’s lacrosse. “There’s a lot of times practices say they’re five to seven, but kids go early to get work done or have to go see the trainer. You’re asking a kid not to eat a meal for a long time and come out and not be able to go to the dining hall...It’s kind of upsetting as a student.” 

Tobias is an active member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) at Otterbein University, a group that seeks to implement changes to benefit all students at the school. According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, otherwise known as the NCAA, the SAAC's goal is to “enhance the total student-athlete experience by promoting opportunity, protecting student-athlete welfare and fostering a positive student-athlete image.” 

Tobias said, the group meets once a month to discuss varying concerns that athletes have seen. Dining is a constant concern that they discuss, an issue that encompasses all students living on campus. “In some capacity, it has been brought up every single [meeting]," said Tobias, "whether it’s the hours or the actual quality of the food. The Den was a big discussion at the beginning of the year, where you could not use a swipe anymore.” 

          

Otterbein University’s OtterDen is the only late-night food option on campus, and for many athletes it becomes the last resort after practice. For students that utilize Otterbein’s cardinal plan, their swipes are no longer valid after the dining hall hours have ended. To try to combat this struggle, Tobias said that the school is looking into a variety of new options in their new Campus Center renovation plans that have been discussed throughout previous years. One of these ideas included a new dining hall specifically for athletes. 

Recently, there has been a stall in the progression of these renovations. Susan Bolt, the chief financial officer and vice president of business affairs at Otterbein, said, “Otterbein does not have the funding required to move forward with the original Campus Center renovation plan all at once. We are looking at a variety of options to move forward with improvements, but nothing has been decided yet.” 

One of the roadblocks the school faces when it comes to large changes such as this, apart from the financial side, is the diversity of Otterbein student interests. “It’s tough. Not everybody is a student-athlete here at Otterbein. Otterbein is a school where there are kids from different backgrounds, different perspectives,”said Tobias, “One kid might be on a sports team, one kid might be in student government. Being a voice of a student-athlete only represents a certain percentage of the school, not the whole.” 

          

Susan Bolt said there are no expected changes to the Campus Center's dining hall hours in the near future.