The Yale College Council released a comprehensive, 28-page report on Friday proposing possible reforms to address student dissatisfaction with certain aspects of Yale Dining — the first such YCC report in over a decade.
The report — authored by one of three major task forces commissioned by the YCC at the beginning of the fall semester — examined both qualitative and quantitative data to formulate a series of specific recommendations for how Yale Dining could improve. The task force compiled data from the annual YCC Fall Survey, which received 1,519 responses and also drew upon the expertise of a focus group composed of YCC members as well as research comparing Yale Dining to the dining services at other Ivy League institutions. Ultimately, the report recommended extended dining hours, more diverse meal-plan options and a registered dietitian on Yale Dining’s staff. YCC President Joe English ’17, who made dining reform a central promise of his campaign last spring, said the report represents a major step forward on a subject often avoided by student government.
“A lot of previous YCCs just didn’t want to even look at [Yale Dining] because there are so many moving parts,” English said. “But even though we may not be able to move the needle on all the [report’s] different recommendations, I think it’s important just to get the conversation started.”
With the report now complete, the next step is to discuss the implementation of its suggestions with Yale Dining, English said. Yale Dining Director Cathy Van Dyke SOM ’86 said she and her staff look forward to discussing the report.
“We will reach out to YCC leadership to discuss how best engage the task force directly,” Van Dyke said in a Sunday email to the News. “We can begin our work as soon as they are ready.”
The report contains four main sections: dining-hall hours, meal plans, sustainability and education programs and clarity and communications. Each section corresponds to a different area of policy and includes both a summary of the task force’s findings on the subject and a set of conclusions and recommendations.
According to task force leader and YCC member Kevin Sullivan ’17, the two areas with the greatest demand for improvement were dining-hall hours and meal-plan options.
In its intercollegiate comparison, the task force found that Yale has both shorter dinner hours and fewer late-night options then either Harvard or Princeton, the other two Ivy League schools with residential college structures similar to Yale’s. The Fall Survey showed that 97 percent of students want dining hall dinner hours extended to at least 8 p.m., with 66 percent desiring 9 p.m. or later. The report also called for a half-hour extension of lunch hours.
The report said Yale Dining should adjust dinner hours to more closely match students’ wishes or provide some sort of late-night option loosely modeled on a Harvard program called Brain Break, which offers limited late-night options in dining halls.
“It’s really up to Dining how they want to approach [dining-hall hours] but hopefully we see some sort of change,” Sullivan said.
On the question of meal plans, the Fall Survey revealed that just 14 percent of students “agree” or “strongly agree” that they are satisfied with the cost of their meal plan. The report offered several specific suggestions for how to restructure meal plans. In particular, it suggested that Yale Dining form a focus group composed of both students and administrators and recommended that the off-campus meal plan, or a similar alternative, be offered to students living on campus.
The task force had considered advising an overall reduction in meal-plan costs but ultimately decided to omit the suggestion.
“One of the reasons that we didn’t recommend the overall reduction is that it might be difficult to reconcile with also saying we want more dining hours and also we want to pay less for them,” Sullivan said. “That’s sort of a difficult thing to ask.”
In its sustainability and education programs section and its clarity and communications section, the report made a number of other recommendations including asking Yale Dining to hire a registered dietitian and to revamp its website, app and social media presence.
Yale Dining serves 14,000 meals daily across its dining halls and other locations.