Students and faculty ran through some potential dining changes at Tuesday night’s Dining Committee meeting that took place in Wilson Commons Room 122. This month’s meeting covered an array of dining issues, but it primarily focused on possible renovation ideas for Danforth Dining Hall and The Pit for over the summer.
The committee meets regularly throughout the academic year and provides an open forum for students and dining administrators to discuss current concerns and future dining plans.
Director of Operations for Dining Services Tim MacTurk presented a slideshow featuring potential additions and renovations dining administrators were interested in seeing for the next academic year. He stressed that these were just ideas; there is no timeline or funding for these projects yet, though they would theoretically be done over the summer. He welcomed the students present to respond with their feedback.
One suggestion was to add a Mongolian grill that would replace the current stirfry station, complete with stirfry abilities and more. The grill
is round and capable of heating food at high temperatures, which could cook a greater volume of food more efficiently.
According to MacTurk, the grill enhances menu variety and could become a focal point of the dining hall. Perhaps a counter with seating would be added nearby for students on-the-go, MacTurk added.
MacTurk also addressed aesthetic concerns in Danforth. Sophmore Class Council President Eric Weissman referred to these changes as “band-aids” that he believed would improve the dining experience.
MacTurk discussed a paintjob, new chairs, the addition of hanging lamps to highlight food and covering bare walls with sustainability-themed images. MacTurk provided a hypothetical example that a student group might be enlisted to design sustainability-themed artwork surrounding the dish drop-off section.
A common concern at this point in the meeting was the practicality of investing in furniture and lighting when the University plans a major Danforth renovation in upcoming years.
“A lot of people wanted to make sure changes this summer were not in vain,” Lomibao said. “Whatever renovations they do they can use part of renovation later down the road.”
MacTurk responded that they would attempt to find future purposes for the additions.
Regional Culinary Director Sue Small said she would love to see Danforth become a dining space students enjoy eating in, something she believes UR has achieved at the new Starbucks location. Small compared UR’s current dining program with other schools. She brought up Boston University as an example of a model dining program at a university. She sees potential in UR’s dining program.
Student Association President Alvin Lomibao described his reaction to Small’s input at the meeting.
“Sue brought up a good point that cosmetic changes would make a big change,” Lomibao said.
Other minor changes would include relocating where certain foods were served, cleaning up the area behind the salad bar and consolidating desserts and coffee in one area, to create a dessert and coffee station.
In regards to how much they wanted accomplished, both MacTurk and Marketing Manager of Dining Services David Feist expressed their wishes that all additions will be available for the fall term, but he stressed that there are no concrete plans as of yet. The feasibility of these ideas will be discussed further in the upcoming weeks.
The meeting proceeded promptly at 6 p.m., beginning with a review of the November meeting’s concerns.
Director of Douglass Dining Center Al Culbertson and Director of Wilson Commons, Pura Vida and Starbucks Bob Fox were among the administrators present.
Students also took this opportunity to address their concerns about next year’s new meal plan options recently presented at a Town Hall.
Feist responded that while questions would be better addressed to Director of Dining Services and Auxiliary Operations Cam Schauf, who was not present at the time, he did not anticipate any major reassessment of the plan.
In addition to discussing tentative Danforth renovations, MacTurk also introduced ideas for the Pit, such as reconfiguring the sushi area and making additional cosmetic modifications. A larger renovation plan for Wilson Commons dining, originally intended for this summer, has been put off for the summer of 2009.
Lomibao explained his reaction to the proposed suggestions and news of the delay.
“I’m excited that they are going ahead making renovations this summer. It’s a little disappointing they aren’t going to go the full extent in Wilson Commons,” he said.
MacTurk emphasized that it is early in the planning process, as the changes do not have funding or timelines as of yet. These changes would be minor renovations. He presented these ideas in order to obtain students’ opinions and suggestions.
“The changes people want to see are more universal – more options, better food quality. These cosmetic changes are going to improve the dining experience,” Lomibao said.
Leber is a member of the class of 2011.