When I finally managed to make my way into the new Douglass Dining Hall, I realized it was going to be a long meal.
Waiting in the line in the first station, I felt awkward because I had no idea what vegetables were being served. I looked to the screen above it, and tried to match the names with the vegetables in front of me, but that just confused me more.
Named after the one and only Frederick Douglass, Douglass Dining Hall lives up to the reputation of its namesake. Especially after the recent renovations, Douglass is the savior of college life. All six stations inside—the Kosher Station, the Bistro Station, the Allergen-Free Station, the Street Food Station, the Dessert Station, and the Late Night Retail Area—represent the highest level of on-campus food. Everything is worth a swipe. The stations provide all kinds of food, from around the world.
We cannot, however, ignore the problems inside.
Danforth, the former favorite purveyor of on-campus food, is not a big fan of taking orders. All the dishes are prepared ahead of time, and all I need to do is grab and eat it. So, students spend the majority of their time in Danforth eating.
In Douglass, however, where four stations are taking orders, students can spend most of their time waiting in line. At the pasta section of the Bistro Station, there are four stoves, which means they can only take four orders at a time. When students are lined up all the way back to the Allergen-Free Station, it may take the last person in the line 40 minutes to get pasta. Because food shortages happen in Douglass, it’s possible that a student waiting in the line for 40 minutes will be told there’s no pasta left, when it’s finally her turn.
What’s worse is that students have no way to know what’s in each station. People who have been to Danforth may notice that there are printouts on the glass in front of each station, listing the name of the dish and its ingredients, calories, protein content, etc. Before I grab any dish, I like to read these—mostly just for the calorie counts. Douglass, however, never offers this kind of information. Thus, the most common words people tend to use when they are ordering food is “give me this and that.”
To be honest, except for feeling a little bit embarrassed when I point through the window to get what I want in my dish, I’m totally fine without labeled ingredients or nutrition facts. However, for people who have allergies other than gluten, it can be hell.
My roommate is, unfortunately, allergic to shellfish. Every time she gets a cup of soup from the Street Food Station, she needs to take a lot of time identifying whether it’s something made out of shellfish or not. There’s nothing on the station that can tell her what’s inside the soup, so she eats with doubt and fear.
A large number of people have allergies other than gluten, but while Danforth has every dish clearly marked with possible allergens for the benefit of these students, Douglass just lets us guess, putting our health at risk.
Admittedly, even though Douglass is inferior to Danforth in these and other aspects, it’s still my first choice. Everyone wants to make their meals worth the meal swipe or Declining dollars they paid for it, and Douglass offers the best options.
No salad bar? We have more rice and meat. Slow refills on pizza and chicken? We have handmade pasta and many types of dessert. Perfection takes time, and we would like to give it time to make everything right.
Most importantly, the Kosher Station could be open more often—then, we could simply have a sandwich.