Administration Announces Campus Dining Changes Amid Budget Crisis


Patrick McBride

College Senior Andrea Wang grabs a salad at DeCafé’s new salad bar, one of the many changes to this year’s setup.

Campus Dining Services has undergone several recent changes that have restructured the way students can access food and use meal swipes.

Wilder DeCafé, Lord-Saunders Dining Hall, and Azariah’s Café now all offer grab-and-go meal options. Stevenson Dining Hall, too, now offers quick, portable options outside of the main dining area. The Science Cart has been closed, but the Science Center is equipped with vending machines that offer coffee and snacks.

Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo explained that the main goal of the changes is to “provide more flexibility to folks on the 300-meal plan, to provide more grab-and-go options in response to student feedback saying that those options are enhancing opportunities in terms of dining, and then making changes to address the closure of Dascomb [Dining Hall] to make sure there are robust dining options in the remaining facilities.”

At DeCafé, students can use a meal swipe for a sandwich, a salad, an 8” pizza, a bowl of chili with a small salad and protein cup, or a smoothie. Students can pair any of these options with fruit or chips, a cookie, pudding or jello cup, and one drink.

Mark Sustarsic, DeCafé manager, echoed Raimondo’s emphasis on student feedback. “We hope to really satisfy students’ needs,” Sustarsic said. “We want to find out what everybody wants, and even though we can’t make everyone happy, we will try to. If I have multiple students come up to me looking for iced coffee, then next week we will have iced coffee.”

Individuals on the 300-meal-per-semester plan will not be able to buy retail groceries at DeCafé. However, they may swipe for meals up to four times a day at any dining facility.

Many students are frustrated and confused by the changes made to DeCafé.

“They ruined DeCafé. The appeal here used to be that if you were willing to wait you would get better food. It’s just not the same now,” said College junior Sophie Drukman-Feldstein. “The situaion is frustrating. Using meal swipes [at DeCafé] is confusing, and weird. Pizza is cool, but not that cool,” furthered Conservatory junior Claudia Cangemi.

Some of the dining changes were enacted in hopes of promoting financial efficiency in addition to increasing dining options.

“The Science Cart cost more to operate than it brought in [as] revenue, so it was not a financially stable structure,” Raimondo said. “Decafé’s staffing model and infrastructure makes it possible to run the dining facility much more efficiently.”

She further explained that Stevenson Dining Hall had not previously been used to its full potential.

“One of the surprising findings to me is that Stevenson was deeply under-utilized,” Raimondo said. “Stevenson was staffed to serve 1,000 people, but there were lunches where we were serving 300 or 400 people. One of the goals is to increase utilization at Stevenson for a financial efficiency perspective, which is also about creating a better program in terms of quality. With effective crowd management, we have the space to serve much larger groups of people and create a much stronger dining program.”

Fourth Meal will now be served in DeCafé, and the Rathskeller will be used for seating space. If there is overflow, students can enjoy their meal at various other locations in Wilder — including the ’Sco, if there is no scheduled programming.

Raimondo anticipates that the dining program will continue to grow stronger. The cart currently serving food outside of Stevenson is a temporary measure.

“There is a plan in the works to convert the Biggs Pod into a grab-and-go facility,” Raimondo said. “That table is a placeholder for what will become a to-go area with a small area for café-like seating.” Additionally, she said, “We are working on menu articulation so that there is a distinct identity to the dining spaces.”

Although the plans may have been put in place to address student concerns, many students have expressed that they miss the dining spaces that they grew accustomed to in previous years at Oberlin.

“It’s much more difficult to get food now. I feel like there are fewer places to go, and at those places there are fewer options” said College senior Moses Riley.

Students have also raised concerns that newly added grab-and-go options will not make it easier to get food on campus.

“[Stevenson] is not central to campus but there are no other food options. It’s all a part of a meal plan I am forced to have,” said College senior Jack Goldberg.