Students entering Commons Monday morning were confronted with a new layout — a rope now blocks students’ access to the food stations.
Yale Dining moved the card-swipe check-in stations from the front door to directly in front of the food serving area, opening the seating area to free access. Each time students now collect food in Commons, they must swipe in at the desk, though they can swipe multiple times over the course of a meal. Director of Residential Dining Cathy Van Dyke SOM ’86 said the rearrangement is designed to stop students from taking advantage of the previous swipe station placement, through which students could eat breakfast and lunch on one swipe and then use their lunch swipe at a retail station such as Durfees.
“The change will accomplish two things,” Van Dyke said. “It will allow students to access Commons to meet friends or to study without using a meal swipe, and it will allow Yale Dining to make sure that students who are eating both breakfast and lunch in Commons swipe for both meals and not just for breakfast.”
Through conversations with students and the Yale College Council, Van Dyke said, Yale Dining realized that many students avoided paying for two meals in Commons and used their lunch swipes after they had already eaten. She said Yale Dining determined that Commons loses money for up to 400 meals a week based on data from the card readers.
This summer, Van Dyke said Yale Dining will install new technology to facilitate the swipe process in Commons. In the meantime, dining administrators are using the end of the year as a trial period for the planned arrangement, she said.
“Making the change now will identify any issues that need to be resolved so that Yale Dining can optimize the layout during the summer and place the new technology where it best supports customer flow through Commons,” Van Dyke said.
Staff members from Commons, who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak about the changes, said while the new system poses difficulties for them, they felt something should be done to address students not paying for their food.
“We can’t keep losing money or we’ll lose our jobs,” one staff member said.
All 10 students interviewed said they think the new arrangement is inconvenient.
“It bottlenecks everything and incentivizes people to take as much food as they can,” Jake Semones ’14 said. “We are going to end up wasting more food.”
Semones said the new swipe arrangement was especially inefficient when tour groups came through Commons since the new system made it difficult to accommodate a large number of people.
Though several students said they acknowledge that students not swiping in for all the meals they ate was a problem, they said they think the change in structure would not effectively address this issue.
“It does seem like this is not a very foolproof plan,” Devin Race ’13 said. “In fact, it seems like this is worse because you could just get a friend to get you food.”
Van Dyke became director of residential dining in August 2012.