Drue Sokol - Photo Editor

From the very beginning, the process of shaping the changes to UR Dining has been a collaborative one. Since talks about renovating dining halls and overhauling meal plans started getting serious last November, UR Dining has relied heavily on the Projects & Services Committee of the SA and the student body in their decision making.

Yet the fact that the changes have now been fully implemented doesn’t mean that the joint effort has come to an end. In fact, both UR Dining and members of Projects & Services stress that continued student feedback is more important now than ever.

“This really is a fluid process,” said Director of Campus Dining Services and Auxiliary Operations Cam Schauf. “We have been making a lot of changes on the run.”

Indeed, as a result of student suggestions, several aspects of Dining have already undergone significant revisions this semester, and there are even more on the horizon.

One of the most prevalent examples of recent change has to do with the Clamshell program, which provides reusable plastic grab-and-go containers for students to take food with them from Douglass and Danforth dining centers.

Last year, Clamshells received modest student attention, but now, with the lack of to-go options for students with Unlimited plans, they have begun to explode in popularity — a turn that caught Dining off-guard. In the first two weeks of this semester, Dining has sold as many Clamshells as they did all of last year, and in the process, they ran out of them completely.

Student complaints about the unavailability of the Clamshells led Dining to order more of the containers than ever before, and they were delivered to the dining centers earlier this week. According to Projects & Services Deputy Chair Sonja Page, the hope is that this surplus of Clamshells will also help to alleviate the lack of seating at the dining centers during peak hours.

In addition, Dining is starting to respond to student requests for more consistency at the all-you-care-to-eat facilities. The most recent example of this is the addition of tuna and egg salads as constant staples at the Kosher Deli in Douglass. Dining is also working with Hillel to monitor these changes and determine if more alterations will be necessary.

Concerns regarding the weekend hours of Douglass and Danforth have led to still more revisions.

For one, starting Saturday, Danforth will have pizza, burgers, fries and a salad bar available between 2 and 5 p.m. on the weekends, a time period during which students previously couldn’t use Unlimited plans.

Though these changes represent significant progress, the same student feedback illuminates more issues with Dining that are as of yet unresolved. A commonly brought up example is the lack of consistent vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options on campus. According to Schauf, Dining is working to make sure that there are a variety of vegetarian dishes available in Danforth, rather than there being a plethora of choices one day and only one or two the next.

Projects Services Committee Chair Camila Fernandez hopes that improvements to signage in Danforth will also help in this area, in that students will be able to find dishes that they might otherwise have overlooked.

Fernandez also emphasized the idea of improving transparency in Dining, perhaps by allowing students to occasionally go into cooking areas and see what goes into the preparation of their food.

“I think [seeing] that gave me a different perspective, and that’s something that we want to do — maybe come up with one day a month that Dining takes students inside and shows them that this is not fake food,” she said.

Yet perhaps the most substantial change around the corner for UR Dining doesn’t have anything to do with what has already come to pass —  over the next two years, they are planning to complete a large scale renovation of Douglass, the initial planning stages for which are slated to begin this month.

According to Schauf, this upcoming renovation was the reason behind Dining’s decision to save the money on giving Douglas a complete facelift over the summer.

Still, Fernandez cautions that Dining must continue to take current students into consideration.

“I think they need to keep in mind that we have a new year, and we still have students eating there,” she said.

According to Fernandez though, time may prove to be the best remedy for many students’ concerns. She stressed that, while some revisions to the new Dining system will be necessary, student apprehension is natural when such a major change is made.

“I think that the first thing is to see whether [the student concerns] are coming up because students just aren’t used to the changes yet, or whether [new changes] are actually necessary,” she stated.

Schauf expressed a similar sentiment.

“Whenever you make a change, you’re going to find the people that were happy before — the people who don’t like the change,” he said. “Then you tweak. We hope and we believe that we’re not going to need any wholesale changes, but we’re going to tweak it as we go along.”

Students interested in speaking their mind about Dining should attend one of the Dining Committee meetings — dates, times and locations of which are posted on UR Dining’s website — or contact them by email at rcdining@services.rochester.edu.

Fleming is a member of the class of 2013.

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