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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, June 24, 2024

Pickard hopes to open up Dining Services' on-campus offerings

During dinner at Carmichael Dining Hall last week, sophomore Julia Bordin expressed her frustration when she found out the stir-fry station was closing earlier than she expected.

"I think it's ridiculous that the dining hall closes so early, especially because college students' time schedules run much later," Bordin said, referring to the fact that Carmichael closes at 8 p.m. on most nights, and at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays. "It's also not right that even though dining halls like Carmichael are supposed to close at eight during the week, a lot of food is put away at 7:15."

Bordin is not the only Tufts student who is disappointed with the dining hours of campus eateries. Complaints like hers are common enough that Tufts Community Union President Duncan Pickard has made it a Senate priority to evaluate the way in which Dining Services sets hours for its nine venues on campus.

Pickard said that the Senate is talking with administrators about how to move forward, adding that he doesn't "know what roadblocks [the Senate] will encounter."

"We're talking with administrators and trying to figure out the best way to go about this — how do we build a coalition around this?" he said. "Broadly, I envision a campus that has more meal options, where students don't have to choose between buying food and going out on the weekends. I envision a place where Dining [Services] doesn't restrict student programming."

Pickard says Dining Services is the only sector of the university with a business model that requires it to turn a profit at the end of each academic year. Calling this system "problematic," Pickard says the model that necessitates the dining venues' hours sometimes compromises students' needs.

"It's something that we've had an issue with for a while and we'd like to act on," Pickard said. "Although [Dining Services] are definitely providing for students' needs, I think that they can do it a little better. We need to revisit the way that students interact with Dining Services."

Pickard said Dining Services, with a self-contained business model, controls many potential venues for student programming.

"Because a lot of programming spaces on campus are run by Dining Services, it's difficult for groups to provide social programming when we are operating under a business model," he said.

Pickard referred to the trimming of Brown and Brew's hours this year as an example of this problem. The campus café used to stay open until 1 a.m. each day of the week, but this fall, Dining Services announced that Brown and Brew would be closed on Saturdays, Sundays and after 11 p.m. on weekdays.

"Brown and Brew was a great programming venue for students who met at night, but that is no longer available to students because Dining Services was losing money," Pickard said. "While it makes sense from their position, it poses a problem to a lot of students."

"I was really upset when I found out that Brown and Brew cut back its hours," sophomore Andrew Wise said. "I would really like Brown and Brew to be open on the weekends because it's convenient to stop by after the gym. It's also a great place during the weekends to see bands play."

Director of Dining Services Patti Klos said she is sympathetic with students' concerns, but after witnessing four years of declining sales, it was time to trim Brown and Brew's hours.

"I can show you how many people come into Brown and Brew from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., and it's not enough to justify keeping [the café] open," she said. "However, I understand that for those who want to go after 11 p.m. or during the weekend, having Brown and Brew closed is a big deal."

Calling Tufts' dining office "one of the best in the country," Dean of Student Affairs Bruce Reitman said in an e-mail that administrators, students and Dining Services need to find a balance between a profit model and a service model. "I don't think that a purely profitability model for priorities works on a college campus like ours."

"I am always concerned when we start talking about cutting back hours or weekend service in any of our social/food venues on campus," Reitman said. "I see these ‘eateries' as a way to draw students to the campus. So I would push for extended hours even if some of the locations are not profitable.

"On the other [hand], that would require that the operation be subsidized since it won't pay for itself and identifying the funding source can be difficult in this economy," Retiman added. "While I would support subsidies for venues that are popular but not profitable, I see no reason to support extended service hours for events or venues that students do not use."

Klos said that students could rent out Brown and Brew for programming events, but events held during the café's normal business hours rarely generate a profit.

"You wouldn't expect it, but we sell the least amount of food during programming events," she said. "Sales tend to drop off more when there is an event in the room, whether that's at Hotung [Café] or Brown and Brew."

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