I think the peak of my time at UR would probably be characterized by my mornings. Two long years ago, as a little first-year, I was able to leave my dorm 20 minutes before class, walk to Starbucks with my reusable cup (scandalous), have them fill it with coffee, and get to my class still five minutes early to sit annoyingly close to the front row. Gone are the golden ages.
When I sit and reminisce about dining before the bad times, I also remember all the things we’re missing. Freaking donuts and pints of ice cream in the Pit. Three kinds of pizza at all times, AND cheesy bread, AND pasta (sometimes even mac and cheese!). Cups of cereal in the Pit!!! Where did those go? Being able to order a Starbucks sandwich — there was a time when the only thing they ever ran out of was cake pops. We’ve fallen so far from grace.
By this point, we’re all annoyingly aware of the consistent limiting of dining options this semester on campus.
So far we’ve lost Roots & Shoots, Peet’s, and Southside Market, as well as having limited Pit hours and stations.
That’s almost half of the locations around campus. Furthermore, the places that are open are overrun with insane lines and wait times, causing them to run out of food before the end of the day. From a broad student body prospective, everyone I’ve spoken to has asked only for clarity from the school. The SA statement made clear that there’s a work shortage, but dismissed student concerns with “we are bureaucratically working on it, cook for yourself if you can.” Forgive me, but as someone who specifically requested access to a dorm with a kitchen due to my disability and was then denied that, I’m nowhere near satisfied.
The even more recent statement from Dean Runner only emphasized the work shortage without offering any timeline or forecasting of events. It’s infuriating and disempowering for students who pay thousands of dollars to have access to well rounded meals on campus to feel as though we are being hand-waved away in emails.
It’s important in this discussion that we recognize how many students on this campus have dietary restrictions, and how they take a hit 3x harder than most. Speaking from my personal experience, I have a chronic disability that comes with a variety of diet restrictions. Some days, I can be more lenient and suffer the consequences, others I have no wiggle room.
In fighting with housing accommodations going into my junior year, I was approved for needing access to my own kitchen, but due to the shortage of housing available they were unable to accommodate me. Disability Services, however, assured me that I would have enough options on campus to avoid my triggers and eat well.
Surprise! I don’t. More days than not I struggle with balancing food I want to eat, food I can eat, and my dining options. And I’m not the only one with a chronic condition or dietary restrictions. I’m one of hundreds, maybe even a thousand. It’s unacceptable that the University fails to properly provide for students’ needs, especially when they promise inclusivity. Lack of access to basic needs is fundamentally alienating and creates divides among the student body in regards to pursuing higher education on an equal playing field.
While I understand there’s a work shortage indicative of larger societal issues happening outside of just our University community right now, that’s no excuse for the school to lay down and let dining services bleed out. We are a closed community where hundreds of students have no other financial or logistical choice but on-campus dining.
The school has a responsibility to us to stand up and find what incentivizes workers, perhaps inspiring other institutions and leading, rather than continuing to restate how our issues are part of a trend with other colleges. What happened to making things ever better? Right now, it feels like we’re being left behind.