At the beginning of every semester, we all attend new classes and have to figure out the routes and schedules that we will stick with for the following twelve weeks. An important and necessary part of making these decisions is determining meal times throughout one’s schedule. For many among the student body, this is not a difficult decision. For many other, however, the geographic nature of the various eating locales on campus can make this a difficult choice. An unaffiliated dining hall closer to the E-Quad could help resolve this problem.
Many students who are pursuing one of the six BSE degrees find themselves in classes in the E-Quad throughout the day. For the students on the regular meal plan, finding a place to go to lunch can be frustrating. Many will go down to the Center for Jewish Life, or, if time permits, to Wu or Wilcox Hall. However, as any student who has eaten in either of these places can attest, they are often filled to the brim around lunch time. Since the E-Quad is so far away from most of the dining halls, there is very little chance that students will have time to make it to either Rocky-Mathey or Whitman, much less Forbes.
In light of these issues, I suggest the establishment of a non-affiliated dining hall in or near the E-Quad. Essentially, the dining hall would be unlike other dining halls on campus, wherein it would be a stand-alone hall and would not be associated with any particular residential college. Not only would it save many engineering students the walk to any of the other dining halls, it would also serve to reduce the load at both Wilcox and the CJL. This would create a more comfortable eating environment for both the students who have to eat and the dining hall staff who — proportionately speaking — have to deal with dozens of students during any given meal.
Of course, the establishment of such a dining hall brings up some questions that must be resolved prior to any further development. The first that would come up would be the location of such a building. Right now, there does not seem to be any obvious location for the dining hall to be built.
However, there are some options. First, the E-Quad Café could be transformed into a dining hall. This could mean that there would be significant interruption of the day-to-day operations of the E-Quad while it is renovated and remodeled. Alternatively, the center of the E-Quad could be transformed into a remarkable indoor/outdoor dining hall that could be accessed from any of the four sides of the E-Quad. A third location could be an expanded Friend Center with an additional wing for the dining hall itself. Upon superficial analysis, there already seem to be three different locations for the E-Quad Dining Hall to be built, and a more thorough analysis could prove to discover more.
The issue of student traffic could also prove to be complicated. Given how busy Wilcox and the CJL already are, it might not make sense to create a new place that would just move everyone from these already separate locations to one unified location. However, it is not clear that this would be true. Many of the CJL patrons choose this location due to the fact that it provides kosher options and a space for the Jewish community. As such, it would be the dining hall of choice for many students, regardless of location. Wilcox also attracts students that are not coming from the E-Quad and would find the trek to the E-Quad only to have a meal less attractive. A dining hall in the E-Quad would be no busier than those in Wilcox and the CJL are, and these would likely see reduced traffic from the establishment of a third location.
Admittedly, it is not completely clear that this would be worth the cost. For reference, Whitman College cost around $130 million to complete and the upcoming Perelman College is being largely funded by a $65 million donation. This sort of investment seems to many of us to be very large and perhaps would be put to better use in other areas, such as expanding the financial aid program.
I am not sure that that is necessarily true, though. First, it is not clear that the University could not do both. A full residential college comes out to less than 1% of our endowment; a single dining hall would come out to even less than that. Of course, staffing the dining hall is going to cost the University long term, but that still does not mean that other programs should be sacrificed. Second, the University also has a commitment to ensuring strong student life while on campus. This means that providing adequate spaces for eating would fall under the responsibilities the University is obligated to fulfill.
While the undertaking of such a project would require much investigation and analysis by the University, it would be more than worth the investment.
Sebastian Quiroz is a junior from Apopka, Fla. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.