There are roughly 2,300 undergraduate students who attend the prestigious Mercer University, and out of those 2,300, approximately 370 are student athletes. These student athletes have many privileges such as use of locker rooms, weight rooms and access to early admission. These athletes are treated very well in almost every aspect. There is, however, one factor at the University that does not exactly coordinate with a Division-1 student-athlete’s schedule. Here on campus, enrolled students who pay for meal plans have access to the cafeteria. This is no complaint about the food though, but rather about the hours that the cafeteria works under. Both students and athletes often find it hard to fit three meals into their day, and the cafeteria only seems to make this problem worse.
Athletes often times practice until later hours of the day, sometimes even until seven or eight o’clock. Between these long practices and school, athletes need to find time to eat so that they can maintain a healthy lifestyle. It is understood before, and especially during college, that being a student-athlete is a lot like a job, with the work ethic and demanding hours. That being understood, with the amount of tuition paid, it would be nice to arrive to an open, welcoming cafeteria after a long day. Often times student athletes here at Mercer find themselves being asked to leave the cafeteria around 7:30 p.m., even though it is supposed to be open until 8:15 p.m., solely because, at the time, those athletes are the only students getting dinner. Along with early closings, the food that is being served at these hours is usually of much less quality compared to middle of the day or during early dinner hours. Not only are student athletes not sure if they will get to eat dinner, but also if that dinner is going to be nutritious or healthy in any way.
Also, the cafeteria’s weekend hours do not exactly fit in with student-athlete weekend schedules either. It is understood that a lot of Mercer students go back home to see their families some weekends, but most athletes are required to stay to work out, practice or even play games. It is understandable that the cafeteria would cut some hours due to the lack of students coming through on Saturdays and Sundays, but some cut backs seem a little excessive. Practice hours are usually longer on the weekends, due to no classes, and the cafeteria closes even earlier on weekends. The biggest problem on the weekends though is how late it opens for breakfast. The cafeteria opens for breakfast at 9 a.m., while in most cases teams start practice before 9 a.m. This leaves an athlete feeling hungry during practice, meaning they must wait hours before they can eat.
It is important to put this into perspective of a normal student who is not required to attend any practices or study hall sessions. Imagine being a student here at Mercer, and taking very demanding classes. For instance, you might be studying all night to perfect your major, and to make good grades. Once your studies are finished around 7:30 p.m. you want to go get some dinner, but you have no idea whether or not the cafeteria will be serving decent, nutritious food, or if it will even be open to eat at. Something has to be done about these problems.
In the case of the early closing hours on the weekdays and late opening hours on weekends, the cafeteria could possibly add another hour to each schedule. This extra hour could be worked and managed by any worker who would volunteer to do so, and workers be paid extra for this extra hour. Also, during these extra hours, the food served should meet the standards that the other food served during more demanding hours meets. It is important that student athletes have proper diets, so that they can perform well. Is it not the main goal of our school’s athletic programs to excel? This is a growing problem for student athletes here at Mercer University, and it is necessary that something be done.