Students awake to dining changes

Dining halls underwent a number of changes following collaborations between students and administration.
Dining halls underwent a number of changes following collaborations between students and administration. Photo by Grace Patuwo.

Expectant brunchers in Trumbull College — including Janet Henrich, the college’s master — lined up Saturday at the usual time, 11 a.m., as in past years. But they were surprised to find that the meal now starts half an hour later.

The new brunch time is just one of several changes to hit the dining halls this year. While some of the changes emerged from collaboration with the Yale College Council, others were several years in the making for Yale Dining, and still others came in response to budgetary concerns.

Some of the changes are meeting with backlash. The Morse College Council executive board met Sunday night to discuss issues with the college’s newly renovated dining hall, including changes to the salad bar. Rather than the traditional setup, where students select from a range of vegetables and other toppings, the dining halls of Commons and Morse, Berkeley, Jonathan Edwards, Silliman and Timothy Dwight colleges now feature about four pre-determined salads: ingredients for a lettuce, grain, roasted vegetable and bean salad.


Michelle Glienke ’11, president of the Morse College Council, said the food in Morse seems to be disappearing faster without the option of a traditional salad bar. But Rafi Taherian, executive director of Yale Dining, said the new format is intended to make a better salad.

“People go to the salad bar with no end in mind,” Taherian said. “[Now] whatever you decide, it was meant to be that way … so there’s an end in mind.”

Regenia Phillips, director of residential dining, said the success of the current salad bar changes will determine if they are expanded to every dining hall. Although both she and Taherian said initial feedback has been positive, seven students interviewed said they miss the variety provided by the traditional salad bar format.

“I was eating in one of the dining halls, and all of the prepared salads had meat in them,” Archit Sheth-Shah ’13 said. “Vegetarians can’t eat that kind of stuff.”

Taherian and Phillips could not be reached over the weekend for comment on whether the salad bar changes, or the move to a later brunch time, are the result of budget cuts.

At Sunday’s meeting, the MCC board members also noted the popularity of their dining hall has led to shortages in food. Morse’s dining hall is the closest dining hall for athletes leaving Payne-Whitney Gymnasium and students in Ezra Stiles College living in Swing Space. Since Ezra Stiles’ dining hall is still under construction, these three student groups are converging on a dining hall that is not yet fully finished, Sheth-Shah said.

“One problem is that we have been an immensely popular place to eat the last few days, and so the crowds have been larger than expected,” Morse College Master Frank Keil said in an e-mail. “But the entire staff has been very responsive to this.”

Morse got another boost in visitors Sunday morning as one of two dining halls that served brunch while the others (except Calhoun) closed for the Fall Festival on Old Campus. Many students complained that they were not notified that their dining halls would not only open half an hour later for brunch on Saturday, but, come Sunday, not at all.

The Yale College Council e-mailed at least some members of the student body on Saturday night to promote the festival, but some students said word of dining hall closures was not prominent and others said they did not receive the e-mail at all. Phillips told the News she asked the YCC to e-mail the student body because she is not able to do so herself.

Still, YCC Treasurer Brandon Levin ’13 said the festival was a success, with the YCC spending $10,000 less than last year and serving three times as much food.

Meanwhile, Taherian said budget issues forced Yale Dining to close Donaldson Commons at the School of Management, a favorite spot for students taking classes on Science Hill. The move was a response to dwindling student customers, Taherian said, adding that the decision was made by members of the SOM administration.

“We could no longer sustain that financial loss,” Taherian said.

He pointed to the numerous food carts on Prospect Street, as well as Lobby at Klein Biology Tower, as examples of locations in the area where students can eat. In response to the closing of Donaldson Commons, Lobby at KBT will expand its selection of “grab-and-go” options, and students can transfer their lunchtime meal swipes to purchase these options, Taherian said.

Not all changes this year are motivated by budget issues. At the end of last year, the Yale College Council presented Yale Dining with a list of suggestions to improve students’ experiences in dining halls and retail outlets, Phillips said. After considering these changes, Phillips said Yale Dining has increased the number of guest swipes on all meal plans to five, up from three in some cases and zero in others. Also in response to requests from the YCC, Yale Dining is looking at opening dining halls a day or two earlier in the spring semester to give students who arrive early a place to eat, Phillips said.

Yale Dining has extended the transfer period for lunchtime meal swipes at retail outlets such as Durfee’s and Uncommon until 2:30 p.m. instead of 2:00 p.m. But some students may be less concerned with the extended lunch hour and more upset about the new closing time of the campus convenience store. Formerly there to satisfy late-night cravings until 2 a.m., Durfee’s now closes at 10 p.m. daily, according to the Yale Dining website. But a hand-written sign observed on Durfee’s door Sunday night says the store will resume late-night hours, listed as 2:30 a.m., later this month. Phillips and Taherian could not be reached for comment.

David Burt and Grace Patuwo contributed reporting.

Comments

  • theantiyale

    WOW! This is a lot of space devoted to the infinitely important matter of Yale stomachs.

    What about the stomachs of 18 million flood victims in Pakistan?

    Maybe Yale students could voluntarily give up ONE MEAL a week and donate the proceeds to a Pakistan relief fund, coordinated through a Yale student liaison with another Yale stomach, H.R. Clinton, Head, Department of State, Washington, D.C.

  • archits

    @theantiyale
    I know you don’t go to Yale any more, but for those of us that do, dining is *kind of* important in our daily lives and it makes sense for the *Yale Daily News* to write an article about student dining.

    Also, I think I said something along the lines of “For a vegetarian, it’s difficult when you go into a dining hall and all of the prepared salads have meat in them.” But the basic premise is the same.

    Yale Dining is great for the most part; some of the changes have just been difficult. This is especially true in Morse, which doesn’t have a fully functional kitchen yet due to the renovations happening in Stiles.

  • theantiyale

    JUXTAPOSITION:
    5000 full but unhappy Yale stomachs / 18 million empty and suffering Pakistani stomachs.

    PLUS: one Yale stomach in charge of Pakistani relief in the State Department.

  • mc14

    @theantiyale – if you don’t like articles about Yale, why spend your time reading the Yale Daily News? Important though social action and the wider world is, we spend a lot of money on meal plans, so forgive me if I choose to serve good causes in other ways, and not through your half-baked idea of giving up a meal…

    Staff at MC were doing an excellent job this weekend but any one dining hall would have been overwhelmed by the sheer numbers pouring through, especially as MC is something of a tourist attraction at the moment.

  • MattM

    We spend far too much on meal plans. Those of us who live on campus — either by choice or by mandate — are required to buy into, at the very least, the “Any 14″ plan, which costs a staggering $2600 per semester. The unlimited “Anytime Plan” is a mere $63 more per semester. Either way, this breaks down into $26 dollars a day for food! I surely hope I am not alone in my outrage at being forced to pay so much for food that is, as the vast majority of those who have answered the survey may indicate, grossly disappointing.

  • theantiyale

    @mc14

    Fortunately or unfortunately, *Yale* (the Hospital— then called *Grace*)-*New Haven* was my birthplace; New Haven’s ghetto my grandmother’s home; the University (M. Div. ’80) my third *alma mater*. I feel a sentimental attachment to the place. Reading *YDN* satisfies that feeling, especially with articles like “The oldest typewriter repairman”.

    I am merely pointing out the dispropotionate allocation of resources in our world.

    I’d probably be the FIRST to complain myself if I’d paid for a complete salad bar of 30 choices and had it reduced to three salad recipes of 5 choices.

    Don’t get too excited.

    Just tuck the juxtaposition under your hat for future thought. That’s all I ask. Maybe not even that much.

    If you’re up my way, I’ll take you to lunch.

  • theantiyale

    PS @ mc14

    Half baked? I dunno. I’ll accept 1/50th baked.

    Suppose one idealist in the 5000 Yale students liked the idea and persuaded 100 other students to go along. That’s $8.50 for one meal multiplied by 100 students ( 1/50th of the student body) or $850 a week.

    Hypothesize that each dollar keeps a starving person alive for a week. So for the 35 weeks of the academic year Yale students keep 850 refugees alive in Pakistan. Now suppose this was turned into a YouTube video, a tweet and a facebook post and circulated among all college students nationwide and maybe worldwide and it grew exponentially with only 1/ 50th of all college students worldwide participating. (Sorry Google has no census on total number of college students in the world, but let’s suppose it’s a lot. OK?).

    This is the potential your generation has to change the world which NO OTHER GENERATION BEFORE IT HAS HAD.

    A little New Blue leadership might go a long digital way.

    PK

  • jayman1466

    1) $850 a week for refugees, assuming the ISI doesn’t take its 99% fee.

    2) If the new salads are a cost-cutting measure, then I’m sympathetic, but otherwise, I personally feel they are a disaster and down-right un-American. I reserve the freedom to choose what I put on my salad and honestly, I haven’t been too fond of the choices our dining hall overlords have tried to impose upon us. Usually, I end up scooping up some iceberg lettuce from the sandwich bar instead.

  • comment

    Were you able to find ANY students who like the changes?
    I don’t take Rafi Taherian’s word for anything. Facts are not a part of his vocabulary. He is just a greenwashing administrative darling. Yale’s cafeterias are going down the tubes and we all get to pay dearly for it without having any input.

  • yaylie

    I love Yale Dining. But of course the changes are cost-cutting measures. The cost-cutting is eating into every aspect of student life here from dining to water coolers in the gym to constuction halts to probably some cancelled classes to admin staff firings to the likely coming cancellation or reduction of residential college seminars, etc, etc. What’s frustrating to me is how in a time of deep recession Yale stubbornly hangs on to its new and improved undergrad financial aid program while shafting everyone in the university who’s not a beneficiary starting with the grad students. Go back to the old financial aid system and budgets would most likely be full to the brim.

  • ezrastiles2011

    This salad bar thing is terrible. Instead of offering the variety of fresh vegetables to which we were accustomed, they have 3-4 pre-made options (none of which I ever find appetizing, because I prefer more simple tastes and their pre-made salads contain a dozen blended ingredients each), and the make-your-own option consists of only lettuce, tomatoes, feta cheese, and vinegar. NO other vegetables, NO salad dressing options. The reduction in salad and sandwich options means that if you don’t like the hot entrees, you’re out of luck except for cereal; it used to be easy to supplement lackluster entree options, but not anymore. Come on, Yale. And justifying the terrible salad bars by saying that before the change, people were stymied by what to create, by the array of choices, and that this new pre-made thing will make it “easier” for us? Lame. Making a salad is not an existential crisis. Except when you we aren’t given any ingredients. I understand that budget cuts are necessary. But they shouldn’t come in the form of cutting vegetables.