Dining Halls Divide Students
May 8, 2014
Filed under Feature
The debate about which dining hall is best is always on, particularly among first-years on campus. It’s not uncommon to hear arguments around campus about which dining halls have the best food, best seating, best atmosphere and best service––sometimes involving vehement attacks on one dining hall.
Anyone who has lived in Jewett Hall, Lyman Hall or Prentiss Hall knows that residents take quite a bit of pride in their respective dining halls. But not everyone stands where you might expect them to on the issue.
Junior Aanand Sharma, a resident assistant in Anderson, stressed that all of the dining halls provide good food, but says his preferences have changed over time.
“As of recently, I have preferred Jewett Dining Hall better. My opinion has changed since last semester. I used to really like Prentiss, but the quality of the food can be so variable from day to day that it’s becoming unreliable for me. The food is still great, but I feel like Jewett is more reliable––I know I can go to Jewett if I want a decent meal,” said Sharma.
Of course, many disagree, and some of Prentiss’s biggest fans live the farthest from it. Junior Edward Daschle lives in North Hall but prefers Prentiss even though it is farther from his residence hall than any of the other options.
“I prefer Prentiss. In general it feels like the food is better. Also Prentiss has much nicer seating than Jewett does, and it just seems like it’s a better structured dining hall overall than Jewett,” said Daschle.
First-year Michelle Christy, a Jewett resident, is of the exact opposite opinion.
“I really like how Jewett has a more flexible setup where you can move things around and it’s not so dependent on the layout of tables, and you can eat with as many people as you want if you crowd around. Because of Prentiss’s booths, it’s a set number of people â€¦ you might be able to squeeze eight people in a booth, but it’s not like Jewett where you can just keep adding more people into a long table. I really like that for eating with friends and interactions,” said Christy.
In contrast, Daschle identified the booths as one of his favorite things at Prentiss.
“There are more comfortable chairs and they have the booths at Prentiss, which is nice,” said Daschle. “It’s not just like being in a classroom, because that’s what Jewett feels like: a classroom with very long tables. And food.”
Many students seem convinced the food is different between the two major dining halls, yet most students interviewed were unable to determine any factor that made the food in one hall totally superior to the others. Dennis Young, a first-year living in Anderson, concluded it was more of a mixed bag, with each hall doing some things better than others.
“I prefer Prentiss for lunch and Jewett for dinner â€¦ I think the food is generally better at those times in the specified dining halls because Prentiss dinner is always pizza, and it gets very stale very quickly,” said Young.
Christy also mentioned the perpetual presence of pizza on the menu as a disadvantage for Prentiss, adding that she thinks Jewett’s food has more variety in taste and origin.
“With Jewett there’s more diversity in the countries that the food comes from,” said Christy.
But there’s another kind of diversity that Jewett’s menu is definitely lacking, according to first-year Gillian Gray, who lives in Jewett but prefers the meal options in Prentiss. Though Jewett is more convenient for her because it’s so close, Gray is often frustrated because Jewett seldom labels the different meals as vegetarian, vegan or containing animal products.
“Yesterday I went in and literally nothing had any marking, so I had to ask … And fairly often they don’t have anything I can eat, so I eat salad â€¦ I could go to Prentiss … but Prentiss is crowded, really crowded,” said Gray.
Crowding is another issue many students feel affects their experience in the dining halls, especially Prentiss on the weekends. Rosie Sherman, also a first-year, feels the tightly spaced tables and booths at Prentiss create an uncomfortable atmosphere.
“I would say I do not generally like dining halls, but almost always Prentiss makes me feel a lot of anxiety so I don’t like being there because the layout is just somewhat more stressful than Jewett â€¦ But as far as general atmosphere, Lyman wins over all of them because it’s quiet and calm, and you can sit on couches if you want to,” said Sherman.
A number of residents from both Jewett and Prentiss agree, Lyman is the most pleasant eating experience. First-year Prentiss resident Lauren Rekhelman says she eats at Lyman sometimes just because it’s quieter.
“It’s nice that Lyman is self-serve and open later than the other dining halls,” she added.
Lyman has several advantages over its competitors: couches to eat on, the self-service system and its quiet atmosphere.
“[Lyman] just feels a lot better and more homey than Jewett, where it’s large and you feel lost. Lyman is small and you can get to know people,” said first-year Mackenzie Cummings.
There are, of course, pros and cons to each dining hall.
“None of them are perfect,” said Gray.
Each dining hall has qualities that set it apart, and each has loyal supporters claiming their dining hall is best, but according to Sharma, the rivalry between residence halls is a campus myth. People don’t necessarily eat in the dining hall they live closest to.
“I don’t think there’s a social divide. Simply because of the fact that students have to eat at Prentiss on the weekends, there is always a little bit of overlap. I’m willing to eat at Jewett as often as I am willing to eat at Prentiss, and I think that’s the case for many of my friends,” he said.