The first weeks of the new semester have seen a host of changes in campus dining. From the re-opening of Summerfields and the Kosher Kitchen, to the adjustment of service hours at the Campus Center and the official opening of Thai Gardens for off-campus points, the face of Wesleyan dining is rapidly evolving.
Several changes have been made to the Campus Center affecting its aesthetics, the food it offers and its hours of service.
The first-floor a la carte facility features re-designed service windows, expanded menus, a salad bar and a general re-orientation of its various coolers and cases. Pasta, made-to-order calzone pastries, more grill options, and a “Tortilla Fresca” Mexican-style station are all new additions to the first floor venue.
The reduction of service hours at the Campus Center is part of a larger, long-term plan to prepare for the opening of the new University Center in the fall of 2007. To facilitate the transition, dining services has begun the gradual process of phasing out the Campus Center, while satisfying demand with the expansion of other facilities. Summerfields has taken over late-night dining options from the Campus Center, where it hosts the weekend student performance series as well.
A renovated Kosher Kitchen also re-opened its doors in the basement of Butterfield A on Monday. Sporting new buffet stands and an expanded menu, the Kosher Kitchen’s face-lift garnered an enthusiastic reception from many students.
“Kosher Kitchen hours have been dramatically extended from last semester, the food is significantly improved, [and] the atmosphere is much nicer,” said Rachel Wertheimer ’06, who, along with Dana Raviv ’06, helped renovate the space. “Dana and I designed a new aesthetic for the whole kitchen.”
The Kosher Kitchen renovations were proposed after last semester’s plans to install a kosher deli and a Middle Eastern Halal food cart in the campus center fell victim to financial constraints and student criticism. Instead, efforts to improve kosher options were directed at retrofitting the existing Kosher Kitchen, whose services had long elicited a lukewarm reception from students. Currently, demand for kosher dining is expected to be met by the Kosher Kitchen, but the Science Center lunch cart from last semester is being held in storage as a possible base for a Halal food cart, should the need arise.
Much of the review and consultation in instituting the new dining options took place within the Dining Committee, a group of WSA representatives, campus workers and administrators that makes decisions regarding dining on campus. While the committee has yet to meet this semester, some of its members are already working to address some of the most pressing student issues.
“I do not support the closing of First Harvest on weeknights,” said Dan Matzkin ’06, one the WSA’s dining committee reps. “The WSA representatives on the Dining Committee are doing our best to see First Harvest re-opened on weeknights or for an equivalent facility to be available for vegan students.”
Both Director of Dining Services Tim Reiss and Director of Auxiliary Services Manny Cunard said that much of the decision-making power in dining stems from the committee. Shortly before the semester began, the WSA representatives on the committee dispatched an all-campus e-mail soliciting feedback on improving dining options, the results of which they are currently working to review and implement.
“We hope to initiate a comprehensive review of menu options at all dining facilities, similar to the Campus Center review this fall,” said Student Activities Committee Chair and Dining Committee member Becca Solow ’04. “Student members of the committee will work with Aramark employees to ensure that changes are implemented.”
Most notable among the changes this semester is the newly retrofitted and re-designed Summerfields, which re-opened on the ground floor of Butterfield C last week. Closed since the beginning of the fall semester, Summerfields now serves full-course lunch and dinner, as well as featuring late night á la carte dining until 2:00 a.m.
Acting as one of two primary dinner options, Summerfields has consistently drawn long lines of hungry students out the door in its first week of operation, and had to close early over the weekend due to a shortage of food.
“Considering the overwhelming crowds that we’ve had, we’ve done pretty well,” Cunard said. “We don’t anticipate those crowds to stay because, as we open more and more spaces in the master plan, it’ll balance out.”
Reiss also said that service logjams are only a temporary consequence of the facility’s initial growing pains. To help ease demand, Summerfields will host a “grab-n-go” ready-made meal refrigerator as well as several new cash registers to help speed up lines. As the weather warms, outdoor dining will be available on the patio.
Main concerns over dining changes have focused on reduced hours of service at the Campus Center, especially regarding the First Harvest Café on the top floor. With First Harvest open only for lunch now, the campus center no longer provides a vegan dinner option while Summerfields only carries one or two vegan dinner options at a given time.
“As a vegan, I [find] that the dining changes have made it very hard to eat good, healthy food at accessible times—options are becoming more and more limited and quality continues to decrease,” said Matt Montesano ’05. “I feel that dining services [is] not taking into account the needs of all Wesleyan students.”
“If we have a demand on weekends that is beyond Summerfields, then we’ll open the Campus Center,” Cunard said. “If we need more vegan options in Summerfields, we’ll add them. If we have to seriously rethink our time schedule, we’ll think there as well.”
The quick pace of current dining renovation and expansion is not expected to carry into the fall at any comparable level. Possible plans exist to introduce some minor organizational changes to MoCon over the summer and a possible renovation of WesWings. The most far-reaching development on the horizon is the reconstruction and expansion of WeShop into a Whole Foods-style market emporium. Slated for construction in or adjacent to the freshman dorm to be built on Fauver Field, the new WeShop would be doubled in size and feature a marketplace-like fresh food eatery as well as a vast array of grocery products.
While many students remain dissatisfied with the new dining scheme, dining services still hopes to work with the campus and the dining committee to reach an equitable solution to current concerns as the semester progresses.
“Our ultimate objective is to make sure that we respond to the needs of the community,” Cunard said. “At the end of the day, our dining program needs to reflect and respond to the needs of our students. If not, we’re not doing a good job.”