Three weeks after the Council of Masters lifted restrictions on dining hall transfers in the residential colleges, the chaotic overcrowding that was predicted has largely failed to materialize — with the notable exceptions of Saybrook and Berkeley colleges.
Aside from Berkeley’s organic dining hall and Saybrook’s particularly narrow space, both of which have had noticeable influxes of diners, students and dining hall staff at most residential colleges reported that the crowds have been thinner than expected. All residential dining halls, with the exception of Berkeley, have been unrestricted by the Council of Masters since Feb. 21. Berkeley has been unrestricted since March 21.
“Branfordians were really scared that it would create this crazy, chaotic situation,” Nicole Nole ’06, president of the Branford College Council, said. “It doesn’t seem to have increased the amount of people, and if anything transfers have decreased as other colleges have opened up and Branfordians have ventured out themselves.”
But Berkeley has been squeezed by the loosened restrictions, Berkeley executive chef Catherine Jones said. Jones said the residential college, which usually serves around 300 diners per meal, has been serving around 490 each night for dinner and over 450 for the average lunch.
“I would say everybody’s got a really good attitude because it’s going to come to an end,” said Jones, who likened the experience to running a marathon while knowing that a hot bath awaits at home.
She said she did not think that a permanent lifting of restrictions would be sustainable, considering the amount of labor required to prepare Berkeley’s organic food. She cited one example of a kitchen worker who had put in two 12-hour days in the past week to ensure the dining hall ran smoothly.
“That’s not sustainable for anybody — for our labor costs or for his well-being,” she said.
Similarly, students in Saybrook said ending restrictions on transfers has forced their college to accommodate large crowds in an awkwardly configured space that is convenient for students coming from classes on both Old Campus and Cross Campus.
“It’s a tough situation because we are pretty central, and with a ton of people consistently stopping by you’re running into situations where you’re running out of silverware and china,” Saybrook College Council President Matt Kennard ’06 said.
Kennard said that the Saybrook College Council supports a policy of restrictions, but that they will wait until they get the data from the four-week trial before making any final decisions.
Saybrook dining hall manager Jim Moule said the number of students eating at Saybrook has been average since spring break but that the college had experienced a 14 percent increase in students during the first week of the trial. He attributed the decline to the opening up of Berkeley’s dining hall.
“We were busier then, and we picked up a lot of people especially at dinner time,” Moule said. “Since we came back it’s slowed down.”
He added that theft of silverware and cups from the dining hall has caused most of the recent shortages.
Aside from Saybrook and Berkeley, other colleges are not experiencing unmanageable increases. Branford Master Steven Smith said he would probably support lifting some restrictions on dining hall transfers.
“It’s been a little up and down I would say in some respects,” Smith said. “This past week seemed fine … I think all told it seems okay.”
Students at Pierson said that although the dining hall is crowded at peak periods, the waits have not been unbearable and the food has yet to run out.
“If you’re going to come in for a 6:15 dinner, you’re going to wait longer than usual,” Lauren Henry ’08 said, noting that she has simply changed her schedule and now eats at off-peak times.
The president of the Jonathan Edwards College Council, Danielle Lovell ’06, said she received very mixed reactions to an e-mail she sent to gauge the opinions of other residential college council presidents. Lovell, who herself has “just been too lazy” to eat often in other colleges, said most colleges supported the trial.
“This hasn’t caused people to flee the JE dining hall,” Lovell said.
Still, Marissa Brittenham ’07, who has been collecting feedback from students at the request of Berkeley Master John Rogers, said most Berkeley students are frustrated with the lack of family atmosphere in their dining hall. The Berkeley College Council will meet to discuss the various sides of the debate over restrictions on Wednesday, she said.
“I’m of the mind that the restriction program that we had in place before this period might not have been the best way to go about it, but this week has kind of shown that Berkeley students are very frustrated,” she said. “I personally think it would in our best interest to go back to having restrictions.”
She did acknowledge that from what she had heard from other colleges, the program had been working out “relatively well.”
The trial period for all colleges expires this Friday. The Council of Masters will meet the following Friday to likely discuss the results of the trial.
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