After years of planning and long summer months of construction, the much anticipated Panda Express and Zoca have opened as part of the newly renovated dining area in The Commons.

Besides adding a Chinese and Mexican option, there are also three other new food stations, including the Common Grill, Pizza Pi and A New Leaf. Additionally, Blimpie was relocated to the Hive.

Changes to UR Dining extend beyond The Commons as well, including renovations made to Douglass and Danforth Dining Centers.

In Douglass, the former Mexican station, Tortilla Fresca, has been replaced with a new grill station called American Classics. Also in Douglass, the vegan station is now made to order. Later in the semester Douglass will be adding milkshakes and other updated entrées to the American Classics station.

In Danforth, the Mongolian grill has been made gluten-free and the entire back section of Danforth is made to order during lunchtime. The breakfast and salad bar area have been expanded to provide more options as well.

Lastly, all over campus there is now a larger selection of the Grab and Go sandwiches and salads, and UR Dining claims that these options are of a more consistent quality than in past years.

With all the new installments made within dining, students seem to be most excited about the larger selection of food choices in The Commons.

“I like the new salad bar,” sophomore Hilary Wermers said.

Sophomore Oscar Lopez shared Wermer’s sentiments on the new selection, citing the Chinese food options as his favorite addition.

Despite the excitement about the food offered in The Commons, students have had mixed reactions to its newly redesigned landscape.

The structure of the Club Meal Plan has also been altered, and the Grab and Go sandwiches and salads are now excluded from Clubs. Club options have also been changed within the salad bar station. Students can now only club salads that weigh 14 ounces or less. At the Zoca station, tacos and quesadillas can form Club meals, but burritos cannot. These changes in Club options seem to resonate negatively with students.

“I am very upset that you can’t club [everything at] the Mexican station,” Wermers said.

Dining services has long attempted to make meals more eco-friendly.

“We are encouraging students to purchase an Eco Clam shell that they can use to take food away from Douglass, Danforth and the Commons,” Director of Campus Dining Services and Auxiliary Operations Cam Schauf said. “They can use their clam shell to make a salad or sandwich to go.”

As part of this effort to become more environmentally cautious, Dining Services has worked with a larger number of local providers to provide more organic options.

They have done so in collaboration with Team Green, who are Dining Services’ employees that aim to improve the green initiatives at UR.

Together Team Green and Dining have worked to raise the amount of purchasing from local vendors.

According to junior and Team Green employee Liesel Schwarz, over the past three years Dining has increased the amount of local purchasing to 20 percent.

“Dining is purchasing from UR’s micro-farm as products are available,” Schauf said. “We work with 32 local businesses and add to our number every day.”

Schauf and other members of Dining Services are extremely pleased with how their new plans have been implemented.

“Dining Services is very happy with how The Commons turned out and it pushes us to take the next step with the other dining facilities,” Schauf said. “Our employees were very excited about the renovation and take pride in their new stations.”

While Dining Services is receiving primarily positive feedback about the new Commons, students and employees at The Commons still have some reservations.

“I like, as a worker, the whole scene [and] I am trying to get used to the new system,” employee Adina McFadden said. “It’s good, we just need more staff.”

Lopez expressed students’ views on the new name that goes along with the renovations done in Wilson Commons.

“I don’t like [the new name],” Lopez said. “It should be called the Pit.”

Although Dining has just finished completing the new renovations to The Commons, they are not stopping their work on updating dining on the UR campus.

According to Schauf, there are already plans in the works to renovate and update Douglass and Danforth in the next two to three years.

Berkowitz is a member of the class of 2012.

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