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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Dining options frustrate students in first weeks of school

Published: September 5, 2014
Section: News

Despite much anticipation for the newly renovated dining facilities, the fall semester has commenced with a strong message of discontent on behalf of the student body.

Abby Brooks ’16 summarized her opinions regarding the new dining policies on the Brandeis University Senate Dining Committee Facebook page. The post garnered mass attention from the Brandeis community, with 138 likes as of 7 p.m. on Sept. 4. “Explain to me why a turkey sandwich does not constitute a meal. Explain to me why a bagel does not constitute as breakfast. Explain to me why a burrito does not constitute as dinner. Explain to me why I should be discouraged from engaging in lunches with professors. The new meal plan changes go against everything Brandeis stands for—this is not justice,” Brooks wrote.

Many of those personally affected by the implementation of the new meal plans have vocalized their concerns, with the limited options for students with dietary restrictions and the sheer lack of meal equivalencies amongst the major complaints cited.

According to the new dining policies, meals are currently only accepted in Lower Usdan and Sherman, with the exception of the Take Three option at the Hoot Market. This option, which allows students to select a sandwich or salad, small chip or hand fruit and a medium-sized beverage, however, is unavailable to students on the unlimited meal plan.

Brooks voices her frustration with this new policy, stating, “I can no longer use a meal at Einstein’s. I can no longer use a meal at the Deli. I can no longer use a meal in upper Usdan. I can no longer use points at the Faculty Club. I can no longer get a coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts after 7 p.m. I have been stripped of all my options.”

Brooks is not the only student who has expressed frustration with the new limitations and restrictions that have accompanied the changes in dining services.

Pooja Gupta ’16, in an interview with The Hoot, said, “There is no reason for upper [Usdan] to be points only. Absolutely not.” Discussing the issues with the new meal plans, she points to what she describes as the illogical correlation between the number of meals and amount of points offered on each plan. Specifically, the eight meal plan contains only $600 in dining points, whereas the 12 meal option, which offers more meal swipes, simultaneously offers more dining points, with $875 in points.

Gupta questions, “If you have the most meals, why do you need the most points? Being someone on the 8 meal plan, I am starving. I am afraid to use my points because I am afraid they are going to run out.”

When asked if she liked anything about the new dining services, Kira Levin ’17 explained, “Yes! Usdan looks beautiful.” However, despite the newly renovated facilities, she nevertheless confessed to preferring the old dining services, citing the lack of a vegan station this year as one of her primary complaints. Numerous students with dietary restrictions have vocalized the lack of options. Stephanie Anciro ’16, in conversation on the dining senate Facebook page, commented, “I have allergies, and I’m sure other people do too. It would be nice to know what we’re eating with some type of sign or nutritional info so you know, I don’t die of eating something in lower [Usdan].”

Due to Lower Usdan being transformed into buffet-style dining, students on plans with more meals also express the difficulty of eating on the go. Essentially, the only solution available to those who do not have the time for a sit down meal at Sherman or Lower Usdan, but who still wish to use a meal, is the Hoot Market Take Three option, but those on the unlimited meal plan are restricted from using this option altogether.

Reflecting on these issues, David Alpert ’16 questions, “I honestly wonder if they actually asked any students what would be the best way to go about this because it seems like none of the new plans were made with the student schedule in mind.”

Beyond time constraints, the establishment of Lower Usdan as a buffet-style dining area limits the ability of students to dine with one another. Levin explained that last year, “We could eat with friends who purchased food in Upper. Now, there is a huge divide.” Just last week, when she wanted to celebrate a friend’s birthday, the entire group had to decide on one dining location in order to eat together. “Last year, that never would have been an issue,” Levin said.

Even with the recent renovations to Lower Usdan, employees at other dining locations across campus cite unresolved issues with run-down equipment, dating to even before the university’s switch to Sodexo. Julia Blumenthal ’15, who works at Einstein’s Bagels, reports issues with the espresso machine and the toaster.

“The broken toaster also means more double-toasting bagels which causes us to burn ourselves,” she said, in addition to taking time away from serving customers resulting in longer lines and wait times.

Although she explains that her managers work very hard, “none of them have been able to get the new equipment we need, probably because they were told the same thing, which is that Aramark/Sodexo/Brandeis wants to hold off on investing in new equipment until the renovation.”

Given the strong message of discontent with the new dining services, the question emerges as to how receptive the administration will be to student feedback. Levin remains optimistic, explaining, “I’ve contacted the administration about the lack of vegetarian options and they want to hear what students have to say about the meal plan changes. As members of the Brandeis community we need to voice our opinions if we don’t like a new procedure the administration is implementing.”