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Editorial: Where Do We Eat?


Famished after a full day of classes, a first-year student texts their friends and asks a question posed in group chats across campus every day: Where should we go for dinner?

This question used to be a fairly simple one for students living on Lehigh’s campus. You could go to Rathbone or Lower Cort if you wanted to use your swipes, or you could go to Hawk’s Nest or Upper Cort to spend your dining dollars.

This semester, however, dining options have drastically changed.

Someone suggests they go to Rathbone, but that option is quickly shut down when they realize it’s 6:30 p.m. and there’s a slim chance any tables will be open for the next hour. But, wait too long, and the doors will be locked.

“What about Hawk’s Nest?” someone asks. It’s not a bad idea, considering how many options there are inside the newly-renovated Lamberton Hall. 

One person remarks, though, that the last time they went there at this hour, they had to wait in a sea of people for over 30 minutes for their Chick-N-Bap.

Eventually, the crew decides to eat at The Grind before heading upstairs in Fairchild-Martindale Library to get some work done. 

The food isn’t bad, but one of them thinks out loud that this wasn’t the dining experience they had in mind when they applied to Lehigh a year ago.

Obviously, this is not a real account of a group of friends struggling to find a place to eat, but it is emblematic of a situation that many students — especially first- and second-years — will find themselves in throughout the semester.

With the closing of the University Center for renovations this spring and the consolidation of multiple dining locations into one building, students now have significantly fewer options for places to eat, and the options they do have are inhibitively busy for most prime dining hours. 

What’s more, the open hours for most locations put students at their mercy for scheduling meals.

For example, Rathbone closes at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, meaning it’s no longer a dinner option for the many people who have a club event or other obligation at 7 p.m.

Not to mention, there are no dining locations open before 9:30 a.m. on Sunday. Early risers may have to wait hours before eating that day or resort to going off campus to buy their breakfast — something that should not be necessary when they already pay for a meal plan. 

The solution to this problem is not to extend Sodexo workers’ already long shifts. The service workers at Lehigh’s dining locations should be considered blameless for the struggles students are having.

The blame should, rather, be placed on the university administration’s lack of strategic planning when it comes to the timing and execution of the UC redesign. 

There seems to be excitement from the school at the prospect of this renovation, but it makes little sense to try to extend this excitement to the classes of 2023, ‘24, ‘25 and ‘26 when they are not going to see the results of the construction for years, if at all, and are feeling the strain it is putting on dining right now.

To the university’s credit, they are doing some things to ease the pain, from accepting meal credits and dining dollars through GrubHub at retail dining locations to reopening Lucy’s Cafe in Linderman and increasing the value of meal credits. However, squeezing in new cafes still does not feel like enough.

The apathy we are seeing toward on-campus students getting the short end of the stick comes from the unfortunate reality that college students are often seen as transient consumers by campus-affiliated businesses. 

Four years from now, each one of us will be gone and replaced by new students who won’t be reminiscing like we are now about the short lines and Mac and Cheese bites at Hawk’s Nest that we enjoyed as freshmen, so Lehigh and Sodexo won’t have to worry about backlash for very long.

Perhaps we are all just envious of the fact that the UC, a staple of Lehigh’s campus and our experience, is closed for the foreseeable future, and that doesn’t seem like too unreasonable of a reaction.

Regardless, Lehigh will continue to create a brighter future for itself and future generations of students. It will be up to the class of 2028 and beyond to properly enjoy it.

In the meantime, we’ll be deciding what’s for dinner among long lines and wait times, no open tables, second choice meals or buying food out-of-pocket.

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