Editorial: Expanding Dining Services next year will benefit students and Dining staff

Editorial Board

During the fall semester, the Record reported on the limited dining hall services and poor working conditions in Dining. We were told these issues would be temporary — that the College was actively recruiting for a number of roles in Dining Services, which would lessen the burden on current staff, and that the previous food options would return soon.

Now, eight months after the College opened for the 2021-2022 school year, the student body is at a record size — with 675 more students on campus in fall 2021 than there were in fall 2020 — and dining options remain limited. Mission Dining offers only six meals a week, Lee Snack Bar is closed for late-night service, and students are not allowed to re-enter Whitmans’ for seconds or get take-out meals from Driscoll and Mission. These changes have caused disturbances in the dining halls, including extremely long lines during peak lunch and dinner hours and limited options for people with dietary restrictions.

These changes, Dining Services leadership indicated, were implemented due to the ongoing pandemic and labor shortage. However, we encourage the College to consider that these conditions may be here to stay, and there should be a plan in place to return to normal Dining operations for fall 2022. By aggressively recruiting to fill hiring gaps and investing more money in Dining Services through higher wages and better benefits for staff, the College can expand offerings without putting pressure on Dining staff. As one anonymous Dining Services worker told the Record in October, the College “isn’t offering a high enough wage to attract cooks.”

By hiring more Dining staff and expanding the options across three dining halls and multiple late-night stations, Dining Services will better meet the needs of the student body and will ensure that the staff isn’t overwhelmed in Paresky during rush hours. As Director of Dining Services Temesgen Araya told the Record in September, opening up Mission for Sunday brunch alleviated demand in Paresky.

Creating more meal options across Dining Services will greatly improve the experience of many students. While vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, halal, and allergen-free options are currently available at dining halls, they are limited and can become repetitive for students who rely on them every day. In order to provide a more inclusive dining experience — one that every student is able to enjoy — the College should invest in offering more variety in its meals for those with special dietary needs.

Furthermore, the reduced menu at Whitmans’ Late Night further limits the ability of students to get food. The current options pale in comparison to the robust offerings that Snar used to boast to all who wanted to enjoy a late-night snack.

In addition, the turnstiles at Whitmans’ prevent students from returning for seconds. Some students load up on everything that can fit on their plate to make sure they have a sufficient amount of food, which often results in food waste and overflowing trash cans. Conversely, some students do not get enough food and are left hungry and without a meal swipe available. Given that students can reenter the buffet area in Mission and Driscoll, it is not clear what the turnstiles at Whitmans’ accomplish.

We would also appreciate more transparency about the College’s plan for Mission Dining Hall — when, if ever, will it reopen for breakfast and lunch? All of the students who live in Mission, Tyler, Tyler Annex, Poker Flats, Thompson, and Dodd circle would undoubtedly benefit from having a fully-functioning dining hall in north campus.

We do not have all the answers to the issues that exist in Dining Services, and we acknowledge that these may take time to resolve. However, we encourage the College’s leadership to consider the potential benefits of making these changes before the upcoming school year.

Dining staff works incredibly hard to keep our community fed and healthy, for which we are immensely grateful. The issues we articulated in this piece are issues of College investment and are not a reflection of the tireless efforts of Dining Services staff.

We believe that with new initiatives from the College and reignited efforts from Dining Services leadership, the College community can return in the fall to a dining experience that benefits staff and students alike.

This editorial represents the opinion of the majority of the Record editorial board.