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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

No vacancy at Sherman

Published: October 4, 2013
Section: Opinions, Top Stories

You’re tired and hungry from a long day. Being the typical Brandeisian you are, aside from your classes, you’ve had two club meetings, spent time at work and maybe had a spare moment to exercise. You enter Sherman after this long day, hoping to have a nice, relaxing dinner, re-energize with some food and decompress with friends. This is what a college dinner experience should be. But the current chaos that characterizes Sherman Dining Hall each evening at dinnertime makes the notion of eating one’s dinner in peace impossible.

At this point, there have been numerous reviews of of our new dining services provider, Sodexo. With this in mind, I will not venture into that already well-covered territory but instead focus on another dining-related problem: the ability to sit down and eat!

In theory, Sherman provides us with the typical college dining hall experience. With buffet-style stations offering all-you-can-eat, it is not difficult to imagine gaining the dreaded “freshman 15” from the volume of food available. This year, however, the serene environment that was the former Sherman has been completely uprooted. Now, if you walk into Sherman at dinnertime you will find a scene resembling a zoo. People circle the seating areas hunting for tables, sometimes even standing over other groups to rush their meal and steal their seat. By the time a seat is acquired, you are frustrated and exhausted, but the fun is not over. Now you get to wait in a long line for food that may not even still be there by the time you get to it! Say you want french fries from the grill. You’ll need to wait 10-15 minutes in addition to the 30-45 you already spend waiting for your burger.

So what exactly has led to these changes in Sherman? Are there more students than before? Maybe Sodexo workers just haven’t gotten into their groove? I couldn’t really tell you, but this needs to end.

The current state of the Sherman dinner experience is poor, yet we should not lose hope. Somehow, Sherman was able to operate more efficiently in previous years, and it is not unreasonable to think it could return to such a place in the near future. For one, there could be a maximum capacity for the dining hall, monitored by cashiers. In this scenario, cashiers would have the responsibility to turn away students when the building had reached capacity or when no seating is left. This would reduce the crowds and perhaps bring some order.

Another option could be to expand Sherman or build a new dining hall. This would be an expensive solution, but it could have a great payoff for students. Having more space to eat would make it easier for students to eat at the same time. Since Brandeis students seem to have mass consensus that 6:30 p.m. is dinner time, this could greatly aid all in a search for a seat. During Sukkot, a sukkah was built as an extension to Sherman for those observing. Perhaps for the remainder of the year, this space could be used as overflow dining space.

I find it hard to believe that other schools face this same chaos in their students’ dining experiences. In this regard, it may be time for us to look to our peer institutions and see what they do. I’d like to return to a day where I can eat my dinner without engaging in warfare to do so.