Berkeley dining hall access limited

To address overcrowding, Berkeley may be closed to transfers every other Monday night.
To address overcrowding, Berkeley may be closed to transfers every other Monday night. Photo by Tomas Albergo.

Berkeley students tired of an overcrowded dining hall may soon be able to eat in peace every other Monday night.

The Council of Masters and Yale Dining is currently reviewing a policy that would close Berkeley College’s dining hall for dinner to non-Berkeley students two Mondays each month. The policy, which Berkeley College Master Marvin Chun announced in an email to his students Wednesday night, would also prevent transfers from other colleges from dining in Berkeley before 6:30 p.m. on the other two Mondays. Students interviewed expressed frustration with the proposed change, though Berkeley students said they would appreciate lower traffic during popular meal times.

Director of Residential Dining Cathy Van Dyke SOM ’86 said the new policy aims to alleviate overcrowding in the dining hall and to decrease the workload for dining staff.

“Berkeley carries far more than its own weight in the dining hall, and workers are flat-out exhausted,” she said. “It is difficult for them to continue operating at the pace they are currently, and we are trying to protect our staff.”

Berkeley would be the first college to have a dining hall closed completely to transfer students at a time other than Sunday evening family night, when all residential college dining halls are open only to their students. The only other restrictions currently in place are in Ezra Stiles College and Morse College dining halls, where transfers are prohibited before 6:30 p.m.

In his email to Berkeley students, Chun said an earlier proposal, which would have closed the dining hall to transfers for lunch and dinner on both Mondays and Thursdays, was rejected because it posed “an excessively severe inconvenience to students.” He added that administrators chose to restrict dining hall admittance on Mondays because the college holds Berkeley Fellows’ dinners — informal dinners with Berkeley Fellows that take place in the Berkeley Swiss Room — on the Mondays he plans to close the dining hall to transfer students.

The restrictions need to be approved by the Council of Masters and Yale Dining officials before they come into effect, Chun said in an email to the News.

Van Dyke said she is concerned that restricting dining hall hours would cause students to “decide to wait until the restricted hours were over and then all come at once.” She added that she thinks this would be the “absolute worst” situation that could result.

A majority of students interviewed from other residential colleges said they do not support the new limitations. Reeree Li ’16 said the new rule would inconvenience many freshmen who choose to dine at Berkeley due to its proximity to Old Campus. She added that she does not find Berkeley’s dining hall to be more crowded than those of other residential colleges.

“When we are sick or overworked, a lot of the Stiles freshmen go to Berkeley, because Stiles is so much further,” she said. “I also haven’t noticed any particular overcrowding that has prevented me from finding seats.”

But Rachel Tobin ’15 said she supports the new policy because she thinks she would be “overwhelmed and annoyed” if she were a Berkeley student often faced with a busy dining hall.

Teresa Bailey ’14 said that instead of closing the dining hall to transfers altogether, Berkeley could set aside a few tables in the dining hall only for Berkeley students — alerting students “to the overcrowding problem without completely excluding non-Berkeley students.”

Several Berkeley students interviewed said they agree that overcrowding is a problem and that they support the new policy, despite the inconvenience it poses to students from other colleges.

Max Rolison ’15 said Berkeley’s popularity had led to a drop in food quality and availability.

“As a Berkeleyite, I am often frustrated coming into my residential college dining hall before 6 p.m. and finding that there is not food left, no plates, forks or cups and no place to sit,” he said. “Berkeley has the same dining budget as all of the other colleges, but it receives a lot more traffic than the other dining halls, so quality has dropped noticeably.”

Restricted hours in the Morse and Ezra Stiles dining halls began in September 2011.

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