Return of the trays

It took less than a week for Commons Dining Hall to dump its experiment with trayless dining.

The controversial initiative in the University’s largest dining facility was scrapped Thursday evening after Yale Dining officials received overwhelmingly negative feedback from students. Executive Director of Dining Rafi Taherian said Thursday it did not make sense to continue an initiative that seemed contrary to the wishes of the Yale community.

“Yale Dining listens,” Teherian said. “We don’t have ego. We’re responsive.”

Yale Dining removed trays from their traditional locations in Commons beginning with a pre-term dinner for freshmen Sunday night, although dining hall staff continued to provide trays upon request.

Commons received about 200 comments asking for a reversion to dining with trays this week and only six comments in support of the change.

Yale Dining administrators said many of the comments appear to have been submitted by a handful of students. Many comments shared with the News complain of the difficulty of carrying multiple plates and glasses without a tray; many of these same comments reference the needs of athletes. Pete Balsam ’11, a member of the varsity football team, said his team sometimes spent meals filling out comment cards together.

The football team has been particularly vocal about the need for trays, Commons General Manager Thomas Peterlik said. Some members of the team did not clear their plates after one meal this week, Peterlik said, instead leaving them in a towering stack at the end of a table in protest. Two members of the team denied knowledge of the incident.

Peterlik said trayless dining also generated longer and slower lines for food and dish deposit. Spillage increased because foods and beverages slipped directly onto counters and floors, Peterlik said, where in the past they would have fallen onto trays.

Director of Residential Dining Regenia Phillips said she believes Yale could still go trayless, but said she believes the culture among students has to change first.

“It won’t work until it’s cool not to use a tray,” she said.

Marcus Strong ’11, who serves as project head for the Student Taskforce for Environmental Partnership, said he and other STEP coordinators are committed to changing mind-sets on environmental issues, and plan to encourage trayless dining in the residential colleges this year.


  • eli

    I don’t think the question here is “cool” so much as “practical”… if I’m just getting a snack on one plate I don’t use a tray anyway, but if I’m getting a whole meal it doesn’t make sense for me (along with a couple hundred other people) to be going back and forth for 20 minutes waiting in the same lines over and over just to get it assembled. Food will be cold!


    Trayless dining will work when I can carry silverware, a plate, and a glass at the same time without playing a balancing game.

    ie: Never

  • MC’11

    Thank goodness common sense has prevailed. Yesterday I watched a kid absentmindedly dump fries down an entire aisle as he was carrying his plate at an angle. I had to use an excessive number of napkins to clean the now filthy table and keep my utensils off of it. And with all the extra spills and clean ups, are we even sure that this would have saved energy? To me the primary effect seemed to be to demean the dining hall workers by forcing them to wait on us hand and foot.

  • YC ’07

    Most of these kids are such entitled jerks. It’s impossible to mature in a place that gives you every opportunity to take advantage. God help the people who have to deal with them once they leave with no knowledge of the real world.

  • cc ’10

    Hell, I’m just impressed by the football team’s lobbying efforts. An organized letterwriting campaign, coupled with showy protests? Leading to an embarrassing reversal in university policy only days after it began? Pretty impressive.

    Maybe the football team has a thing or two to teach the activist community. Or maybe the football team could turn their efforts towards some more worthwhile causes…

  • CC ’13

    As a freshman, I must say that I haven’t used any trays at all in either RC dining halls or the Commons. In fact, many others do the same. They’re really not so necessary. I put my hot food on a plate, in addition to fork and knife, and then get a drink. I bring that to my table and then get other foods (salad, pasta, dessert). I actually think it’s better that way.

    Really, trays/no trays isn’t a big deal.

  • Anonymous

    Of course there are spills. That’s because so many students have no idea how to behave in public. It’s basically impolite to pile your plate high. Take multiple trips if you want multiple servings. If you don’t have time for that, maybe you don’t have time to eat in a public place.

    Problems with spills? Trays don’t fix that. If you spill food that often you should probably have a bib and baby wipes. Spills are not a normal part of dining.

    I’m actually glad when trays are not taking up space on tables. Plus, the scuffed beige plastic looks so crummy.

  • @ Anonymous

    Don’t you have some kids on your lawn to scream at?

  • Jon K. BK ‘ 78

    If trays are totally eliminated, does this mean that on snowy days in January, students are going to slide down Science Hill on a dinner plate ?

    Jon K. BK ‘ 78

  • Hmmmm …. 8Y4

    But why force “trayless” on students. They, of course, have the option now of just not using a tray.

    Is the consensus among those who are pushing for “trayless” that Yale students are beyond education and reason on this issue? That the only way to get the majority of Yale students to, for example, not waste food is to take away their choice about using a tray under a claim that those advocating “trayless” know better how the majority should, rather, must lead their lives. For student activists of “trayless” this seems to show a troubling lack of confidence in all Yale students. On the one hand, there is a lack of faith in the majority to understand and then do the right thing. On the other, and perhaps even more troubling is this: Do the advocates of “trayless” have so little confidence in their own ability to convince the majority of Yale students of the rightness of their cause that the feel only a diktat will suffice? I suppose that’s what a Yale education is now about among “trayless” advocates, removing choice, removing appeal to the reason of individuals, and the emplacement of rigid rules where judgment used to suffice … But if one has such a low opinion of Yale students, why is one at Yale?

    And I agree with Jon K. about the real concern, though my “traying” experience was at the Div School…

  • Josh

    The only concern I have about trays is that they do not appear nearly as classy on the tables as just plain plates do.

    This is underscored by how Princeton’s dining system works: the dining halls use trays, but the eating clubs don’t because they are super classy.

  • Hmmmmm

    Hey Josh… good start with the trays, a “super classy” experience was my “only concern” also. Now, how about table service? Nice tablecloths, an extensive, but not ostentatious wine list, subdued lighting, jackets and ties required (no flip flops, egad!) and live entertainment, nothing too loud, but capable of rousing performance if the mood so requires, and why be tied down to tiny old New Haven, why not serve dinners in Manhattan, by helicopter, travel time isn’t as bad as everyone says … “super classy,” to “underscore” Yale’s “super classiness” in a way even the school-that-just-doesn’t-matter can’t possibly compete with, that’s what I’m thinking…aren’t you … Josh?

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