Transformed dining hall garners mixed reviews from student body

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Photo: Qiuyang Chen

Dining Center of Emerson College

By Sophia Pargas, Living Arts Editor

This spring semester, students have returned to the Emerson Dining Center to find several changes in both food quality and station layout—but not all agree on whether or not these modifications have been for the better. 

According to a statement released by the college at the start of the semester, the changes were implemented in response to student preferences. 

“Through the annual survey and your continued use of our feedback boards, we heard your requests and have taken action to improve our dining options throughout campus,” the statement read. 

Emerson’s dining services provider, Cafe Bon Appetit, has implemented several new changes. Some, such as the addition of the Craft station, mean a completely new variety of foods for students to choose from. Others, such as the new dessert station, are merely a matter of layout. 

“The Dining Center, with the goal to provide well-rounded, comfortable, and healthy meals, has modified and crafted stations to your growing needs and desires,” the statement continued. 

In light of the changes, student opinions have greatly varied. In a social media poll conducted by The Beacon, results indicated that the split is relatively even—25 respondents expressed negative opinions, while the majority of 26 expressed positive ones. 

One respondent put their reasoning for disapproval simply.

“I don’t like change,” they said. 

One student, freshman media studies major Kellyn Taylor, echoed the same sentiment. Upon first reaction, she felt taken aback by the new set ups. 

“The first thing I noticed was that they changed the names of all the stations, which is disorienting because I had just gotten used to them,” Taylor said. “Some of the stations did different types of food than they did before which was weird because I didn’t know what to expect.” 

For students such as Taylor who had just grown accustomed to their daily dining hall routines, the changes seem unnecessary and bewildering. 

“When I plan on getting a meal, I look at the menu, I know what I’m going to get, and then I go in and I get it,” Taylor said. “Once they changed everything around I didn’t know where anything was and I couldn’t do that anymore.” 

Students also dislike the changes as they say meal options have been negatively affected. 

“There are less Asian food options than last semester,” one survey respondent said. 

“A whole station has just been turned into the dessert table,” opined another. 

Not all students were so opposed. Some, like sophomore journalism major Hannah Hughes, feel that the new changes have been productive in maximizing the student experience.  

“One thing that I will always commend the dining hall staff on is that they really listen to our feedback as students and at least try, to the best of their abilities, to implement what we ask for,” she said. “They have the whole board in the dining hall where you can write your suggestions, and I was shocked last year at how many were written and actually [implemented] to the best of their abilities.” 

In addition, many students appreciate the newfound ability to self-serve—a method reemerging post-COVID. New stations such as Craft also allow students to create their own meal combinations as they please with customizable ingredients.

“One thing I really like is that the self-serve stations mean you can get the exact portions you want,” said junior visual media arts major Julia Slaughter. “On the flip side, if I just want a little bit of something, I feel like I’m also wasting less food.” 

Hughes agreed, saying that with the new changes there is an ability to create options that are best suited for her.

“I feel like there’s more variety every day,” Hughes said. “I know not everyone shares my opinion, but I think the food is better. They’ve really taken what I think are their strongest suits and maximized [them] for the student body.” 

Regardless of one’s opinion on the dining hall and its changes, however, Hughes urged students to remain patient and voice their concerns in respectful and thoughtful ways. 

“It’s not going to be like a home-cooked meal, but I feel like sometimes people need to take a step back and realize it’s a college dining hall,” she said. “A lot of people are really quick to complain and not look around at how the staff is really trying. Just remember that the [workers] are human and you should be kind to them.”