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Brandeis Dining: not perfect, but progress made

By Jacob Edelman

Section: Opinions

September 23, 2016

When the changes to Brandeis Dining were announced this past summer, I was admittedly skeptical of any positive effects they might have. Fortunately, sometimes in life we receive reminders to not always jump to conclusions. While not perfect, I believe that there has been some solid progress made in the quality and availability of food to students on our campus. While some options have been lost—and must be replaced—and other aspects of Brandeis Dining are still in transition and in need of improvement, I believe that both the potential and quality for what is being offered to campus consumers is rising.

The first improvement that jumps to my mind is the addition of Sub Connection—and its critical meal swipe—to Upper Usdan. For one swipe, a meal plan-user can get a six-inch sub or wrap of their choice, along with a sizable bag of chips, a hand fruit or cookie and a fountain beverage. This comprises a complete and filling meal and offers value to the customer.

The second improvement which has taken place is that of keeping Upper Usdan open on the weekends. It is clear that Upper Usdan offers dining options that are simply not available in the Sherman or Lower Usdan dining halls—or elsewhere on campus at all. Keeping the dining area open on the weekends is a noticeable and appreciated change.

A third, possibly less appreciated improvement is an increase in the number of meal swipe options at the Stein. The choice no longer lies between a wrap and a plate of macaroni, but is between multiple wraps, salads and meat/veggie tortellini. I believe that the Stein has a wealth of untapped potential to become a student social hub—both on the weekends, and on weeknights—and the addition of more swipe options is a small step towards that possibility.

While there have been solid steps made in the right direction, there have, in my opinion, been a couple of steps backward and improvements that still need to be made. For one, the closing of Dunkin Donuts without having any sort of replacement or substitute provided for options available in the south residential area was a less-than-perfect solution. Thankfully for Dunkin-lovers, it will be reopened on upper campus by spring semester.

Perhaps most concerning has been the closure of Lower Usdan on the weekends. For one, it presents a serious difficulty for students living in upper campus (East Quad, North Quad and the Castle) who may have mobility difficulties, but it also presents a challenge for students with dietary restrictions who will have markedly fewer options in Usdan to choose from.

Finally, an improvement that has yet to be made is the increase in and quality of meal swipe options at certain key locations. Until several years ago, one could use a meal swipe at Einstein’s and receive a meal’s equivalent of food. Personally, I would count a bagel, fruit and coffee or tea as a meal, and worth a swipe. Another location that needs bolstering in its offerings is the C-Store, where one meal swipe can be traded for a bottled milk or water, small pre-packaged and refrigerated sandwich or salad and a fruit or tiny bag of chips. This is a decent option; however, it utterly pales in comparison to what can be had at Sub Connection. The difference in value is striking, so I hope that for the sake of offering us value for our (expensive) meal plans, the C-Store bolsters its swipe selections.

College is not a country club. None of us expect, nor should we, to be served five-star cuisine on silver platters. Brandeis need not offer luxury and need not compete for the title of “Best College Food in the Country” if it comes at the increased expense of students and their families. If there are ways to improve, however, I hope that they are fully understood by those who make the ultimate decisions and are then acted upon. I also know that when an improvement is made, we appreciate it.

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