With residence hall renovations and construction in the planning and a constant demand for better and different food in the residence hall dining halls, the University”s dining services is exploring its options for the future.
“All of housing is in the process of undergoing a study planning to renovate all of our real estate,” said Alan Levy, director of public affairs for University Housing. Levy said the renovations and new construction would give dining services an opportunity to try new, more cost-effective approaches to student dining.
University officials said that large neighborhood dining halls could provide students with more options while saving the University money. “Sometimes the notion of a consolidated dining center gets interpreted as a giant mess hall when in fact that”s not what we”re talking about,” said Levy.
“There are models around the country of large facilities that are broken down into different components that requires a fair amount of square footage to do it properly,” he added.
Administrators say they have been traveling around the country to see what other schools do, most recently traveling to Cornell University and the University of California at Los Angeles.
“Right now we”re essentially replicating our menu in 10 different facilities and that is not as cost effective as being able to look at one larger dining commons somewhere on campus,” Levy said.
Housing administrators say that larger dining facilities could lead to greater student satisfaction.
“I think depending on what one”s philosophy is, it really could work” said Bill Durell, director of dining services.
Some students are interested in the new dining commons idea. “I think I”d like that because they don”t have much variety and the hours aren”t that long,” said LSA sophomore Katie Weller.
Others are interested in the possibility of increased variety. “I think there are far too many carbohydrates,” said LSA freshman Priya Pai, who said she would like a greater variety of food in the dining halls.
Dining services administrators say they seek to maximize student satisfaction on a limited budget. “We are charged with raising the entirety of our expenses through room and board in residence halls and through other services we provide,” Levy said.
Dining services is part of University Housing, an auxiliary unit of the University. Auxiliary units receive no money from the University to operate. The University Hospital and the Athletic Department are also auxiliary units.
“The financial model that is used by dining services now may or may not be the financial model of new dining facilities in the future,” said Levy.
Dining services has hired outside consultants to help them evaluate the current situation and prepare to build the new residence hall.
“We”ve brought in some of the best dining services consultants in the country, who have worked on campuses all across the country, and have very tangible experience with what has worked and not worked with both new construction and renovation and retrofitting old dining facilities, and we need to do both,” said Levy.
Although interested in the larger dining hall idea, some want to keep the existing system for the new residence hall. “It”s just better to keep it the way it is,” said Weller. “I wouldn”t want to have to go too far to eat.”