As the University dining pilot program comes to a close at the end of the month, over 85 percent of dining pilot meals have been at dining halls or Frist late meal. Only 2 percent of meals taken have been at eating clubs, while none have been reported at co-ops.
Most dining pilot participants interviewed by The Daily Princetonian said that they did not eat at eating clubs, either because they did not know anyone in the eating clubs or because the process to use their swipe at the eating club was too strenuous. Tension around the inclusion of co-ops in the dining pilot also remains. While much of the discussion around the dining pilot revolved around the eating clubs, the pilot may show that there is more desire to have meals at campus-run locations.
The dining pilot is a trial run of an upperclass dining program proposed by the University. Randomly selected participants are allotted five swipes per week to dine at eating clubs, co-ops, dining halls, retail locations, or late meal. Approximately 10 percent of the upperclass student body is involved in the dining pilot. Those selected to participate in the program received an email the week of Feb. 20, and the program runs through April 30.
Not all eating clubs participate in the Dining Pilot
In order for dining pilot participants to use their swipes at eating clubs, they require a host from that eating club to accompany them while they dine there. If the participant does not know anyone in that eating club, they are encouraged by the website to contact one of the officers to act as their host.
Sekinat Aliu ’24, a member of Tower Club and dining pilot participant, said, “I was actually really interested in getting to explore other clubs, especially eating clubs with people who I may not necessarily know. But I think we found out that in order to eat at most of the eating clubs, you needed to know someone or you needed to reach out to someone.”
Students in eating clubs can already eat at another eating club or the dining hall with a friend through the Meal Exchange program. Only one out of eight people interviewed by the ‘Prince’ reported using dining pilot swipes to eat at an eating club with a friend.
Aliu also commented on the scarcity of times that eating clubs were open.
“For example, eating clubs like [Colonial Club], and some of the other ones, they just never seem to have times available,” Aliu stated. “When I usually eat it’s around dinner time, but they never seem to have dinner time slots open, so I honestly ended up just eating at dining halls and Studio 34, rather than other eating clubs or co-ops.”
The ‘Prince’ independently confirmed through the Dining Pilot Portal, the website participants use to reserve meals at eating clubs and co-ops, that Colonial was not open for meals and, at the time the ‘Prince’ checked, Cottage and Ivy Clubs had no open slots for meals.
According to a statement by Assistant Vice President for Communications Michael Hotchkiss, “All eating clubs are represented among the dining pilot participants, and 10 of the 11 clubs have made meals available to pilot participants. The clubs offer, on average, 55 meals per week.”
On the page for reserving meals at eating clubs, Colonial is listed as “unavailable at this time,” and Cottage and Ivy are listed as “No Open Times.”
Officers for Colonial, Ivy, and Cottage each declined to comment.
All eating clubs but Cottage recommend participants to contact an officer to coordinate a meal through the website.
Three eating clubs have “black-out dates,” which are days when dining pilot participants are not allowed to dine there. Charter has 10 black-out dates, Tower has one, while Terrace has 47 black-out dates.
Cannon is only open for dinner, the only participating club with no lunch times available.
About the Dining Pilot Portal, participant Shireen Waraich ’24 criticized the cryptic nature of information: “It doesn’t make sense. Half the eating clubs don’t have information on it.”
No eating club officers responded to a request for comment on their participation in the dining pilot.
In a statement to the ‘Prince,’ Hap Cooper ’82, a representative of the Graduate Interclub Council said that “The University offered assurances to the clubs that their members will not be asked to pay into the system beyond their club dues, which eased many of the concerns that were voiced.”
“We look forward to seeing what we learn from the pilot and working toward building a better set of dining options for upperclass students,“ he added.
Dining pilot participants tend to not use swipes at co-ops
The statistics from the University also confirmed that dining pilot participants have not been using their swipes at co-ops.
Co-ops and eating clubs are reimbursed ten dollars for every participant that dines at their facilities, according to Hotchkiss.
Sreeta Basu ’24, a current dining pilot participant and a steward for the International Food Co-op (IFC), confirmed this statement to the ‘Prince.’
However, Basu expressed concerns that $10 was not enough to compensate co-ops for the labor that students put into making each meal.
“That’s certainly something that we’ve brought up a number of different times. It’s kind of like, hey, you know, there’s this student labor aspect that’s not really being recognized,” Basu said.
Sarah Gemmell ’24, current dining pilot participant and member of Brown Co-op expressed a similar sentiment.
“I don’t think co-ops should be included in it, because it’s kind of detrimental to them as a whole. If people can just come and go and you don’t know who’s gonna be there and how much you’re gonna make, that’s not feasible long term,” she told the ‘Prince.’
Gemmell is an Associate Puzzles Editor for the ‘Prince.’
During the planning process for the dining pilot, Basu felt that she and other IFC leaders were pressured by the University into allowing IFC to join the dining pilot.
“It is kind of one of those things where I feel like we’re just thrown into it. And it has a lot of implicit repercussions that I think are either kind of unfair or otherwise unrecognized,” Basu said.
She specified that in meetings between co-ops and the University, co-op leaders had asked to be left out of the dining pilot program. In response, Basu told the ‘Prince,’ University leaders implied that, since co-ops are already given prox access and allowed to use University kitchens, there is an expectation that “‘because we [the University] do these things for you, you’re expected to do them back.’”
Basu also said that she worried about how IFC would handle dining pilot participants with allergies.
When planning the dining pilot, the University met with co-op representatives. Each co-op is permitted to include information about their approach to food allergens on the dining pilot app, which is used by program participants, according to Hotchkiss.
Basu explained that it is difficult to explain all dietary issues and that individuals’ “comfort with them kind of varies.”
“It’s kind of hard for us as students when we’re trying to warn people about coming here, how careful they need to be,” Basu said. “It’s really hard for us to say we can accommodate it, but it’s also really hard to come up with a list of things we can’t accommodate.”
Basu went on to explain that, for example, IFC can’t accommodate a kosher kitchen, because there is no space for it.
Additionally, because Princeton co-ops are a student organization and part of the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students (ODUS), Basu expressed concern that co-ops would be held liable under Rights, Rules, and Responsibilities if something were to happen at the co-op.
Angel Kuo ’24, another current dining pilot participant and president of the Brown co-op, said that adding co-ops to the dining pilot “felt weird at first.” But he was more positive about the program as a whole.
“We have a quote-unquote ‘unlimited guest policy.’ So if you have someone interested in trying out the club, they can come in whenever. If people in the club have friends that they want to bring, they can bring them as long as it’s not like an everyday thing,” Kuo said.
“Later on they told us if people come for dinner, they pay us per person. After that, we were pretty excited,” Kuo stated. “We wanted to open up more slots, but so far we haven’t had anyone come in.”
Kuo serves as Art Director for the ‘Prince.’
Other dining pilot participants interviewed by the ‘Prince’ confirmed that they either spent their swipes at late meal, retail locations, or dining halls.
Upperclassmen express enthusiasm over late meal
Candace Do ’24, current dining pilot participant and member of Brown co-op said, “I mostly use my swipes in campus cafes and at late meal, and also dining halls occasionally, but that was kind of similar to just the two swipes that week the upperclassmen get.”
Do is a Head Photo Editor emeritus for the ‘Prince.’
Students on the dining pilot expressed enthusiasm for being able to get late meal again. The late meal program gives students on the unlimited meal plan nine dollars per meal to get food at the Frist Food Gallery, and is very popular among underclassmen. Upperclassmen not on the unlimited meal plan, including those in eating clubs and co-ops, do not have access to late meal.
Most upperclassmen interviewed were excited to have late meal back, as they had not been on campus in 2021 due to COVID-19.
Brandon Gauthier ’24, current dining pilot participant and steward of IFC co-op wrote in an email to the ‘Prince,’ “Having late meal back is the dopest thing to ever happen to an upperclassman besides graduation.”
Students interviewed by the ‘Prince’ expressed that they would not pay for the dining pilot if it were not free anymore.
Aliu said, “If it felt as though it was like paying for extra swipes, then that wouldn’t make the pilot special.”
Janny Eng is a staff News writer for the ‘Prince.’
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