It feels like Ithaca College’s dining services have just had an extra dose of bad luck. From the Sodexo debacle and the iconic photos of thermometers in packaged sandwiches to the Towers fiasco of underselling food. There seems to always be something not quite right with the dining services, and this year is proving to be no different.
The dining halls are struggling! There has always been a shortage of staff, both students and professionals. However, there seems to be a noticeable difference this semester –– if the queue outside of the Campus Center is anything to judge by. Sure, pre COVID-19, the queue would stretch all the way to the recreation room, but that was only on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the free noon hour. And during this pre COVID-19 bliss, there were at least two people swiping diners in. Unfortunately, the queue is a daily occurrence with one person helming the swiping. The queue seems to ebb and flows like waves on the beach. The minute the first wave crashes another appears. The minute you think now is a safe time to go, turn your back for a couple of minutes, you will find yourself joining the hodge-podge of people squeezed shoulder to shoulder in front of the recreation room and blocking most of the access to the doorways.
Additionally, other than the unrelenting queue, another clue that the dining halls are struggling is that recently the Terrace Dining Hall has opened for breakfast on Sundays (YAY!), but so late into the semester, it really doesn’t bode well for how things are going. If anything, it feels like the college is struggling to meet the demands of having everyone back on campus and who knows what strain the budget kerfuffle has had on the whole situation.
Are the dining halls 100% satisfactory and leave you wanting more? Not necessarily, but honestly, show me a dining hall that achieves this. Despite this, the dining hall is the place where core college memories are made. From the food, whether it’s a hit or miss, to friends and just people you see regularly, the dining hall is vital to not just nourishment, but socialization.
It would be easy for me to write a complaint about how the dining halls are struggling, but I think it would also be remiss of me to not mention how incredible the employees who work in these spaces are. As someone who was stuck on campus from June 2020 to June 2021, I can honestly say that the dining hall and getting to know everyone there was the only solace I had from being stuck in these institutional, beige dorms for a year. Every single person had such an outpouring of kindness and affection that I will forever be so grateful for. So yes, the dining halls are struggling, and I can only imagine what that is doing to the morale and kindness of the people who work there. But I hope that they know how grateful I am for all their hard work and all the times they have gone above and beyond, not just for me, but many students on campus.
Therefore, instead of looking at the glass as half empty, I’m choosing to see it half full. I encourage and urge anyone who reads this to choose to show kindness to the people you come into contact with every day. A soft hello or shy smile can really brighten anyone’s day. Or better yet, take that extra step and get to know any one of the people you see daily whilst you get your breakfast omelet, or midday coffee or sleepy supper. And trust me, I’d know how much that would mean because I too worked for a bit in the Terrace Dining Hall. Those short conversations and shy smiles made each shift feel a whole lot better.