From the often-present “fork ’em, Demons” on social media posts to the sea of purple in Turpin Stadium – regardless of whether fans are present or not, calling the Northwestern State University community loud and proud would be an understatement.
NSU received results from the 2017 Noel Levitz Student Satisfaction Inventory assessment during the last week of June. Out of nine categories surveyed for the nine UL System schools, NSU ranked first in five of them: instructional effectiveness, registration effectiveness, student centeredness, campus climate and campus services.
Recruitment and financial aid effectiveness and academic advising effectiveness tied second with UL-Monroe and Southeastern Louisiana, respectively; safety and security earned a third-place rating, and campus life ranked fifth.
After ACT discontinued the Student Opinion Survey, the UL System used this assessment in 2013 where NSU was above the national average for public four-year institutions in all nine categories surveyed. This trend still continues in 2017.
Altogether, the UL System ranks above the national average in eight of the nine categories, however, it falls incrementally behind in safety and security.
Averaging all nine rankings shows NSU students are the most satisfied within the UL System by a margin of .04 points. Southeastern Louisiana came in second, and McNeese State placed third.
Though NSU President Dr. Chris Maggio said it was an honor to be ranked so highly, he emphasized the importance of humility and that there will always be work to do to improve the student experience.
“We want to continue to listen to students,” he said. “We want to make sure that we are doing our best to provide good service to our students. I hope the students realize that these offices are really working hard to try to make sure processes are streamlined… If they have a concern, they can let us know.”
Music education major David Jenkins attended NSU the first semester of his freshman year, transferred to Southeastern Louisiana his second semester, then returned to NSU for the entirety of his sophomore year. This fall, Jenkins will continue into his junior year at Mississippi State University.
Jenkins said the fifth-place category, campus life, was deserved. This category includes residence hall staff and living conditions, food selection, disciplinary procedures and student activity fees.
“I would say that we do have very nice dorms,” he said. “It’s just simple things. I’ll always hear people [say] the internet is really bad. Things like that would be really simple to fix. Obviously, the large, glaring problem is the food.”
During his freshman year, Jenkins lived on campus and regularly ate at Iberville Dining Hall, which he said frequently made him sick.
“I don’t know if it’s because it’s so heavily processed, and my body’s not good with that,” he said. “It’s not that it just doesn’t taste good; I feel like it’s not healthy. It’s not nutritionally optimal either.”
Sodexo General Manager Steve Kauf objected to this claim and said the food served in campus eateries is restaurant quality and is subject to the same inspections as commercial food.
“We have healthy options at every meal, and all of the items are nutritionally rated and posted, so we are not hiding any ingredients or what you are getting,” he said. “We offer a variety of healthy and, I agree, not so healthy options, but it is up to the consumer to decide what they choose… We try to offer what most people are asking for.”
According to Kauf, Sodexo is inspected at least four times a year, three times by the local health department and once by NSF International, to ensure campus food services meet federal regulations for safety.
“There are many reasons people get sick,” he said. “Everything from living in close quarters for the first time with lots of new people, to food allergies, to anxiety over tests. If [there were] a foodborne illness caused by our food, there would probably be many people infected due to the volume of food we serve.”
During the regular school year, Sodexo serves about 3,000 meals a day on the Natchitoches campus. Kauf invites students to his office on the first floor of the Friedman Student Union if they have complaints with food service.