There has been significant uproar since the announcement that Yale Dining Services would be modifying (but not eliminating) its popular “double swipe” policy so that students would no longer be allowed to swipe in for two pre-dinner meals at retail facilities including the Law School, School of Management and Kline Biology Tower.
With that announcement came an intense flood of criticism from students, who complained that the change equated to a reduction in their meal plans after the deadline for switching plans had passed. Fighting words abounded as indignant Yale students griped and grumbled about unfairness, trickery and robbery. I even (unsurprisingly) heard one irate student espousing the prospect of a class action lawsuit in reaction to Yale’s egregiously tortuous breach of contract.
Having both heard the student complaints and worked with YDS during my time as chair of the YCC Committee on Dining and Health, I would like to clarify this recent change.
First, one must know a bit of history. The current policy that allows two swipes before 5 p.m. was enacted last spring (2003) by YDS at the request of the YCC. Previous restrictions allocated one breakfast meal before 11 a.m., one lunch meal until 5 p.m., and a dinner meal in the evening. Anyone who skipped breakfast or wanted it after 11 a.m. would effectively be deprived of a meal he paid for.
After many student complaints and much negotiation, the YCC persuaded YDS to grant students two swipes any time before dinner. This was done with the intent of giving students more value for their meals. However, some students saw a creative way to use the new system by going to retail transfer locations like the SOM and swiping twice. A student could thus get both a meal and a healthy amount of Snapple and candy for his dorm room. YDS saw this clever exploitation as a potential sinkhole for valuable dollars (contrary to popular belief, YDS loses money every year) and a violation of the spirit of swiping policy. Its function is, after all, to provide us with meals, and not to stock our drawers with Snickers and M&Ms. With the intent of streamlining its policy, YDS stopped allowing us to swipe twice at retail locations.
We can still transfer one pre-dinner meal to a retail location per day. The time of the meal does not matter.
We still get the same number of meals we paid for, be it 14, 21 or unlimited. YDS has not in any way reduced the number of meals we are allowed to swipe in for.
Hopefully the recent change in swiping policy will spur more discussion about the state of dining at Yale. The current performance of YDS is not too shabby. Under the leadership of David Davidson, it manages over 20 different dining venues, feeding thousands of students daily while remaining open to new ideas. We can find attentively monitored feedback boxes in all dining halls (the one in Commons is located conveniently near the exit), and Davidson and his director of communications, Janet D’Agostino, are always open to student input.
The institution of the double swiping policy last year, accommodations provided for Muslim students observing Ramadan, an abundance of vegetarian and vegan foods, specially bagged meals for busy students, the addition of Mexicali and/or Ivy Noodle to the Flex plan, and Friday night meals in Swing Space for displaced Pierson students are but some examples of the lengths to which YDS goes to accommodate our needs and better on-campus eating.
While we acknowledge the care and effort that goes into the above initiatives and the day-to-day running of such a massive machine, YDS should constantly strive to improve the quality of its service.
For example, there are not enough options available to students whose customary dinner times may not fall within the residential college hours of 5 to 7 p.m., or Commons’ 9 p.m. closing time. These hours are inadequate in the face of the wildly erratic schedules some of us keep. YDS must provide more adequate late-night dining, especially on Sunday nights, when there are no options after the college dining halls close at 7 p.m.
Access to the Berkeley dining hall must be improved. A recent rise in the number of transfers from 50 to 80 (done after a request of our committee) is a step in the right direction, but still only serves early eaters. The organic food grant was given to Yale with the intention that it would create a pilot program to be sampled by all of us, not just those in Berkeley or individuals who are comfortable eating dinner at 5:05 p.m. To that end, YDS and Berkeley should coordinate special “all-access” nights on which students of a particular residential college can come in and sample the organic fare.
We must balance our criticisms, recognizing all YDS does for us, but never ceasing to demand the best service possible.
Lee Hiromoto is a junior in Morse College. He is the chairman of the Yale College Council’s Committee on Dining and Health.