At last Thursday’s Student Dinner Kick-off event for Meliora Weekend, I was struck by the lack of student attendance. Danforth looked the same as I remembered it, actually a little better with a fresh coat of paint and several new dining options.
But throughout the entire night, the dining center was never more than half full. And this was on a night with live entertainment, better food and prize giveaways.
The emptiness was not the fault of poor planning by the Meliora Weekend Student Programming Co-chairs. People just don’t go to Danforth anymore.
It hasn’t always been empty. As a freshman, I remember making the walk from Tiernan with a group of friends to find a dining hall that was packed full of students of all class years and interests. Danforth was not only used, it was popular. You knew when you went to Danforth you were going to see a lot of people ? some you knew and a lot you didn’t. Danforth was a campus melting pot.
Time would fly as you sat and watched “The Simpsons” with friends, talking about everything from today’s test to the weekend’s upcoming party. It was a place where you could see your friends, forget about all of the stresses and just relax.
It wasn’t popular because of amazing food, in fact the food is probably a little better now than it was then. Danforth was popular because it was a cool place to go.
Something happened. Danforth is no longer a cool place to go.
The are many factors that have contributed to its demise but none as important as economics.
The campus as a whole stopped going to the dining hall when dining services doubled the cost of dinner from $5 to $10. There was little reason for sophomores, juniors and seniors to pay the extremely high prices to eat there. And, when the upperclassmen stopped going and the community atmosphere died, the freshmen followed.
Other factors played a part as well. Two summers ago the university removed the long, slender rectangular tables that could seat around 16 people. Smaller tables were a good idea but it is good that the university has opted for the mixture of the two to accommodate large and small groups.
Sadly, as Danforth died, nothing has begun to replace it on campus and nothing is being done about this situation.
The university needs to attempt to revive Danforth by lowering prices closer to 1999 levels and making it more appealing to the student body.
This might cost some money, but it is money well spent. There is no better place to build community and bridge gaps than over dinner.
Hildebrandt can be reached at email@example.com.