As Elon University continues to shift its focus from being a small, regional school to a medium-sized, national school, the university stated its intention of becoming a more residential and pedestrian campus.
In his address to kick off the 2016-2017 school year, President Leo Lambert said that a walkable campus where students live in on-campus housing is key for Elon going forward, citing statistics about the benefits of living in residence halls.
But if Elon wants its student body to consider living on-campus for all four years, then the university must not overlook the flaws in its dining services.
First and foremost, Elon doesn’t have any food options available on-campus from 1-7 a.m. weekdays or 3-9 a.m weekends. Any student without the means to drive out of the Town of Elon can only go to Kangaroo on any given night to get food during those hours.
The lack of actual food available encourages students that have access to a car to drive off campus. I’m sure dining places, such as Cookout and Steak ‘n Shake, and superstores, such Harris Teeter and Walmart, are incredibly thankful for Elon’s lack of late-night options.While one on-campus option wouldn’t stop all students from driving to get a cookies-and-cream milkshake, I think there would be a significant portion of students that would. And while, hopefully, there aren’t many students that drive after drinking, some do, and the consequences can be fatal.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that 1,825 college students aged 18-24 die from alcohol-related injuries per year, including motor vehicle crashes. Elon has been lucky, frankly, that it has not seen a student die from an alcohol-related driving accident in recent years.
But the benefits of an on-campus, 24-hour dining service aren’t just safety-related. Many of the schools Elon considers peer institutions — such as Wake Forest University and Vanderbilt University — have on-campus options open for 24 hours.
Even a small college has seen the benefit of it. In 2014, Inside Higher Ed reported that Lynn University, a small private college in Florida, switched the hours of its only cafeteria to keep it open around the clock.
Lynn only has 1,750 undergraduate students, but “upward of 300” students visited the cafeteria on a nightly basis — which is one-third of all students with a meal plan on Lynn’s campus.
As schools as small as Lynn start to transform to fit the needs of its student body, the question lingers: When will Elon catch up with the trend?