At about 10 a.m. Monday morning, the student body received an email from Dining Services. The email, titled “Did you miss it?,” described the latest iterations of proposed changes to Douglass Dining Center, currently located on the second floor of the Frederick Douglass Building (FDB).
Fewer than ten students attended the meeting. To imply that some students may have missed it would be a gross understatement.
The email noted that the majority of Douglass’ changes will occur during Summer 2015 and Summer 2016, such that a renovated Douglass would open on the first floor of the FDB by Fall 2016.
We applaud Dining’s recent communication about the new Douglass to the student body, and we encourage them to go further. Our main suggestion is to consistently update the student body—through email and other effective channels that students actually use, like Facebook—on the construction’s progress and on Dining’s progress in implementation relative to their timeline.
Many of the intended changes to Douglass sound great. For example, Dining has communicated their desire to have the new Douglass model be composed of “micro-restaurants,” a concept that sounds much more appetizing, efficient and filling than Danforth’s model, which places importance upon small plates—and, in turn, small portions. It is no secret that many students go to Douglass with the singular purpose of not going to Danforth. We thank Dining for recognizing this and choosing to have Douglass follow a distinct path from that of Danforth.
Dining’s commitment to expanding options—primarily with the expanded allergen-free and kosher stations and “street” and “exhibition” stations—will give students more choices when deciding what to eat. Dining has a responsibility to cater to student needs, and we truly appreciate that they are taking our dietary desires so seriously.
That said, it’s a shame that the new Douglass will open after current juniors have graduated. However, this is a major renovation, and we appreciate the amount of thought that has gone into the plan, both in terms of the goal—the dining center at its final stage—and student experiences that will occur between now and opening day. The second floor of Douglass will effectively remain open for students as a dining option until Fall 2016, and Dining will focus upon summer construction in an effort to keep the number of dining options for students stable.
A more problematic element of Dining’s plan is their ambiguity when it comes to the future of the Mel Express. Recently, more items from the Mel Express have been added as options in the Pit.
The Mel Express is the last remnant of the Meliora Restaurant still accessible to students. Currently, it is the only real option for students who want to have a full sit-down meal in a quiet area. The Faculty Club is moving, but at least it is staying. And for good reason—faculty and administrators use it! Additionally, Dining is expanding Grab & Go due to student interest.
Unfortunately, the ultimate reason for the Mel Express’ potential closing seems to be general student disinterest.
We believe that most students do not realize what they’re missing, and that they likely never will. We hope that answers the question at the heart of Dining’s email.