Campus Dining Changes Draw Wrath
By Michelle Sharkey

This fall, Campus Dining Services has finally solved the problem of long lines at the popular “fourth meal” dining option. But for many students, the cure is worse than the disease. The switch from the Rathskellar to the larger facility in Dascomb has led to complaints, and is only one of many changes in CDS that confronted returning students this semester.
“We knew full well that some of the changes we made weren’t going to be popular,” Jack Cahill, Director of Campus Dining Services, said.
Students have found many of the facility changes to be inconvenient. In addition to the fourth meal switch, other facilities changes have limited students’ dining choices.
The carry-out option, formerly a staple of the Dascomb dining hall, has been moved to Talcott. Getting hot food “to go” is no longer an option, as Talcott choices are limited to salad and sandwiches. Hot breakfast at the Decafe has also been eliminated, making Dascomb the only choice for breakfast food.
For many students, the biggest problem lies in the change in fourth meal. Students who were willing to wait over an hour to eat in the “Rat” complain about the lack of ambiance in the less politely nicknamed “’Scomb.” The program may have been a victim of its own success.
“The key thing is… the program had grown so that it didn’t fit in the Rat anymore. It just got too big”, Cahill said.
Some CDS employees, however, remain skeptical. “If we didn’t have room [in the Rathskellar], how was fourth meal here for so many years?” one CDS employee, who declined to be named, said. “If it would have been years ago, kids would have been marching [in protest]”.
For all the criticisms surrounding fourth meal, students have not been channeling their dissatisfaction into action. “What we’ve seen is a 40% increase [in fourth meal attendance],” Cahill said. “If you look at who’s voting with their feet, and showing up for fourth meal, that’s a good indication of satisfaction.”
Many students, however, depend on late-night eating, and high attendance does not necessarily indicate their support for the changes. Students simply may not know the best way to voice their concerns. “Kids come in, they don’t know how the system works, and by the time they figure it out, they’re so frustrated that they don’t care. They’re on their way out,” senior Leighanne Saltsman said.
Some students are choosing to “vote with their feet” in response to what they perceive to be lower quality food this year. One student claims to have found dead maggots in an entrée from Dascomb. “I haven’t eaten in CDS since then. I haven’t gone back [to Dascomb]… I’ve definitely been eating a lot less,” the College junior, who chose to remain nameless, said. “For the money that we give them, they ought to be able to do a lot better.”
Facilities concerns are one of the primary reasons for the changes, but funding and staff have also played a large role in the changes. CDS has lost two staff members in Wilder who have yet to be replaced. This may affect future CDS service. “We had hoped to have the Rat open on an evening basis for grilled items… We talked about moving the coffee program in, [to the Rathskellar],” Cahill said.
Unless additional staff can be hired to replace those who have left, the Rat probably will not reopen for board plan use this semester. “It’s up to the senior staff [of the College] whether they want to re-hire staff and maintain the current level of service, or freeze the positions and further curtail service,” Cahill said. With the college currently looking to cut costs, it’s possible that these positions may not be filled.
Financial issues are driving many of the other changes as well. According to Cahill, Talcott is in need of renovations before it is equipped to serve hot food efficiently. With the College’s budget restrictions in effect, “It’s a bad year to propose renovating a kitchen,” Cahill said. “If money is available, it doesn’t solve problems, but it makes solving them a whole lot easier.”

The dining options have been adapting based on efficiency, which hinges on the way students use their meal plan; though costs and facilities have been the motivation for the changes in CDS, the success of the changes is measured, in part, on how students respond to them.
“I know there are a lot of disappointed people… As far as breakfast [at Decafe] goes, we might get it back; it depends on student response,” a CDS employee, who chose to remain nameless, said.


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