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JSU trustees OK new food services plan, campus dining hall

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In a Tuesday meeting of Jacksonville State University’s board of trustees that saw the termination of John Beehler as president, trustees also approved a new food services contract that will see a $26 million dining hall built at the university. 

The board unanimously approved a renewal of its food services contract with Sodexo, which includes an agreement for a new dining hall to be constructed on campus and a $275 per semester required meal plan for commuter students.

The board’s approval authorizes Jim Brigham, JSU’s chief financial officer, to negotiate and sign a final contract with Sodexo. 

According to the proposal, the university will pay $20 million of the construction cost while Sodexo pays the rest. The proposed facility would stand between Forney Avenue and Trustee Circle next to Curtiss Hall, where a parking lot currently sits. The 63,000-square-foot facility would include a Dunkin Donuts retail location as well as the Grid, a convenience store-like option that offers snacks. Sodexo operates similar stores on other campuses.

Plans call for the two-story space to feature a large dining room for students, a lounge, outdoor terraces, and smaller dining and conference rooms for faculty.

No timeline was given at the meeting for the construction of the new facility. 

“This is really big news for this school as we move forward and grow,” said board chairman Randy Jones. “It’s going to be a great plus for this campus.”

The university also announced it has received a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to enhance campus safety, victim services, and create mandated student training in prevention education.

“We are committed to providing a safe environment for everyone on campus, but especially our students,” Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Christie Shelton said in making the announcement to trustees.

Shelton said the university had applied for the grant, which is only given to 50 schools nationwide, three times in the last five years.

The $300,000 will be dispersed over the course of three years, according to the terms of the deal, Shelton said.

“These efforts will allow us to build a stronger culture of interpersonal respect,” Shelton said.

Trustees also announced that two honorary doctorate degrees will be given out at the university’s December commencement. One will go to former JSU and Major League Baseball player Todd Jones and the other to Bill “Bubba” Bussey, JSU alumnus and radio host.

“If you’ll go back throughout our history, those are few and far between,” Jones said. “These are not given out lightly, trust me.”

Also during the meeting, trustees:

— Approved a new degree plan for a master of science in geographical information science and technology.

— Approved an annual compliance letter from the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

— Recognized former trustees Thomas Dedrick and Jim Folsom Jr., naming the latter a trustee emeritus.

Contact Staff Writer Daniel Mayes at 256-235-3561 or danielmayesstar@gmail.com. On Twitter @DMayes_Star.

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