In preparation for next week’s student government elections, MForward — one of the parties running in the election — is reviving a push that began last year to bring Saturday night dining back to the residence halls.
MForward presidential candidate Chris Armstrong, an LSA junior, said Saturday night dining, which is not currently available in the dining halls, should be on the agenda for the Residence Hall Association and University students.
MSA passed a resolution last February to write a letter in support of Saturday night dining to University Housing, RHA and The Michigan Daily.
This weekend, MForward is hosting a dinner in three dining halls to raise awareness and create dialogue among residence hall residents to bring the new meal option to the table.
“We want to push (Saturday night dining) as an issue and make it something that students care about and want to see changed as an issue,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong added that offering students the option of Saturday night dining is important because for many students Saturday night is a “large drinking night,” and a lack of an option for dinner could be “dangerous” for those who cannot afford to eat in Ann Arbor restaurants and choose to drink on an empty stomach.
Armstrong, who also serves as chair of MSA’s LGBT Commission, said if elected, he will build a better relationship between the RHA and MSA to discuss and implement a Saturday night dining option in the dining halls.
According to a Feb. 17, 2009 report in the Daily, then-LSA Rep. Timothy Bekkers, who introduced the resolution along with Business Rep. and MForward member Alex Serwer and LSA Rep. Virat Gupta, called the lack of Saturday night dining a “pretty big social justice issue.”
“I think (closed dining halls) hurt the people who can least afford to be here at this school already,” Bekkers said at the time.
Then-Student General Counsel and current Rackham Rep. Michael Benson said at the time that MSA would push RHA to offer the option, according to the Daily article.
“It’s an issue that affects all of our constituents,” he said at the time. “So now we’ll work collaboratively, as we have in the past, with RHA to try and find some sort of a solution.”
Caitlin Sadler, president of the Residential Hall Association, said in an interview this week that the issue of Saturday night dining could be viable with sufficient student interest.
“If the students currently in the residence halls are very interested…it’s definitely something that could be solved,” Sadler said.
University Housing spokesman Peter Logan echoed Sadler’s sentiments, saying that Saturday night dining was cancelled in 2005 because of the low student turnout in the dining halls. A dinner option for Sunday — which hadn’t been available since 1965 — was revived instead.
“It was determined that the student interest at that time was more geared toward a Sunday evening meal,” Logan said. “Saturday evening dining did not have significant participation in it because, as you can imagine, many students have different plans on Saturday night.”
Logan added that maintaining both Saturday and Sunday dinner options would cost University dining facilities an additional $300,000.
“When we make a significant change in operations that has an increase in expense, we have to figure out a way to offset that expense so that we aren’t making it an additional burden on the residential student,” he said.
“I doubt very much, personally, that students at this point would want to undertake an additional meal that would add sufficiently to their board expenses,” Logan said.
East Quad resident and LSA senior Elizabeth Jackson said Saturday night dining would be convenient, especially during the cold winter months.
“During winter, I don’t want to leave the dorm, and I don’t want to pay for delivery,” she said.
Engineering sophomore William Mohr, said he doesn’t mind the lack of a dinner option on Saturday nights because it gives him an excuse to eat out with friends over the weekend.
“It’s a nice break from cafeteria food,” Mohr said.
— Daily Staff Reporter Suzanne Jacobs contributed to this report.