Self-serve in Baxter creates controversy; no student jobs lost

When Baxter Dining Hall diners returned from Spring Break, they noticed that Baxter had joined the other dining halls by providing self-service.

Opinion differs on how the change has affected the quality of the Baxter dining experience and the jobs of student workers there.

Stephanie Lovett ’98, Student Manager of Baxter, questions the effectiveness of this change in serving styles. She said although this mode offers flexibility in rationing, it denies the quick service patrons have come to expect.

She added that the switch to self-service undermines another aspect of the dining experience: the interaction between the servers and the served. Prior to the change, ther existed a rapport between the servers and the staff. The new mode, she says, alienates the two.

Director of Dining Services James Hodgkins said, “The reason Baxter changed to self-service was the same reason every other dining hall changed—to give students a choice about the amount of food that went onto their plates. Initially students’ eyes were bigger than their stomachs and it is likely that more food was wasted. That trend seems to have diminished but we haven’t done a waste audit on it yet so we can’t say for certain what the effect has been on the amount of waste produced.”

Hodgkins also noted that student workers whose time has been freed up by not having to serve are able to refill the wells more frequently with smaller amounts so the food is fresher.

Lovett also addressed the issue of student labor. She estimated that next year Baxter would likely require two-thirds of its present work-force. She added that shifts would no doubt be restructured, so as to better accomodate the new serving style.

Manager of Baxter Dining Hall James Tustin said, “There is no plan to reduce student labor. Students who used to serve now wipe the counters. There is some idle time, but nothing horrific.”

He noted, “We currently have approximately 70 student workers but they come and go frequently. Our problem at the moment is not that we have too many workers, but that we can’t keep as many as we need.”

Associate Director of Financial Aid Paul Boyer said, “We had 658 financial aid students and 565 nonfinancial aid students who held campus jobs last year. 85 percent of aid students held jobs as did about half of the students not on financial aid held.”

He noted, “Last year there were a total of 2,050 positions open to students, more than we could fill. There were only 1,223 students working on campus, some of whom held two jobs, a few even four or five but that still wasn’t enough to take all the jobs.”

Baxter worker Caren Mintz ’01 noted, “Workers liked to serve— it was fun; you got to interact with the people who came to eat. By making Baxter self-serve like all the other dining halls, it has lost some of that friendly interaction which used to make it special.”

Mintz noted, “The difference in work load isn’t all that great. We’re given other things to do, like peeling vegetables, so we’re not standing around doing nothing. But with self-service more of a mess is made and workers have to stay later to wipe it up.”