In an effort to make students feel more at home during meals, chopsticks will now be provided by the Berkeley College dining hall.
Last Thursday, Berkeley began offering chopsticks as an alternative to traditional Western dining utensils. The addition is part of an effort by two Berkeley students to make students feel more comfortable in the dining hall.
“Just having chopsticks there can make the dining hall feel more like home,” David Liu ’18, one of the organizers of the initiative, said, adding that making Yale students feel at home is part of Yale Dining’s philosophy.
Andy Hill ’17, Liu’s co-organizer, said the initiative started during the 2014–15 academic year when he and Liu were both Yale College Council representatives for Berkeley College. As they looked to improve campus in ways other than their university-wide YCC projects, Liu brought up the idea of offering chopsticks in the Berkeley dining hall. Liu mentioned that some of his friends had previously approached him about offering chopsticks on days that Asian food was served.
Hill and Liu then sent out a survey to Berkeley students about their dining hall experiences to gauge their interest in chopsticks.
“It was an interesting spread actually,” Hill said of the survey results, which measured interest on a scale of one to 100. “The mean score was only 55, but the standard deviation was 23 … which showed that the people who wanted it, really, really wanted it.”
Liu added that around 20 percent of the University’s students are Asian, and many regularly use chopsticks at home.
Hill said Berkeley Dining Hall Manager Monica Gallegos played a key role in proposing the idea to administrators within Yale Dining.
“For [these students], eating with chopsticks is eating at home,” Gallegos said. “[The chopsticks are] to make them feel at home — that’s what we at the dining halls are doing.”
Hill mentioned there has already been an “overwhelmingly positive response” to the pilot program.
Peter Wang ’18, an international student from Hong Kong, said some students may be more used to eating with chopsticks as opposed to a spoon, fork and knife with cultural foods like noodles.
“Since freshman year I’ve been wanting to bring my own chopsticks to the dining hall,” said Jonathan Shao ’17, a student in Berkeley who uses chopsticks for every meal he eats at home. “Now that it’s socially acceptable to use chopsticks in the dining hall, I think it’s a great way to practice using chopsticks.”
Wang and Lucinda Peng ’18 said they hope all other dining halls will provide chopsticks as well.
“I’m curious how many [chopsticks] they will lose,” Silliman chef Stu Comen said. “In Silliman, we’re already short on soup bowls.”
Hill said that if students enjoy the chopsticks option, the initiative has the potential to spread to other colleges. Though neither Hill nor Liu will themselves push for the addition of chopsticks in other dining halls, they welcome other students to ask for advice in bringing them to their own residential colleges.
“For the most part I think it’s introducing some good fun right now,” Liu said, adding that he hopes the chopsticks in Berkeley will foster conversation about Asian culture and history.
In February, the Berkeley College Master’s Office sent an email to its students asking them to return mugs to the dining hall, which at the time was missing 394 of its 400 mugs.