In early December the Student Union held Midnight Buffet, a large-scale late-night event with a variety of food options for Brandeis students. Unfortunately, this event occurred after our last publication of the semester, so I was unable to criticize it until now. But I, as well as many other students I have heard from in and outside The Hoot, took issue with this year’s Midnight Buffet so I find it necessary to make these concerns known despite it being a month after the event.
First, the event was widely advertised and very hyped up for the amount of success that it brought. Many students were expected to show up, and many did. The event was planned over a long period of time, which takes a lot of work and money. I want to let the Student Union know that their efforts to make an enjoyable event were appreciated, but the execution, on the other hand, was lacking.
The night began quickly; the line grew long within a short period of time and people pushed their way inside the small corridor where the MAD Band was playing that led the way into the entrance of MidBuff. Because of the newer variants that were emerging at the time, I was surprised to see that there was no limit to the number of people packed into such a small area at once. It was a very concerning and suffocating half an hour wait once you got inside.
For many though, it was unlikely that they would make their way inside. The line to get in stretched around the central part of Usdan and continued a bit slightly outside of the courtyard. It was a snowy, freezing night, and people were hopeful even as no one was informing them how food was running out and their time spent freezing their fingers was wasted. Of course, you cannot expect to accurately estimate how many students will show up to an event; you also cannot control the weather to make it less of a painful wait, but the Student Union failed to adequately communicate to the many students waiting outside. Other student groups on campus, with lesser budgets, have been successful in their many food-focused events on campus in the past; for example, literally any of the culture club events featuring food this past semester. There was a serious lack of care for the students waiting outside of the event shown by the Student Union’s inadequate communication.
Additionally, as a student with a food allergy I was—unsurprisingly—met with barely any options despite the over $6000 the Student Union spent organizing the event. Based on the senate money resolution for Midnight Buffet, the Union spent nearly $4000 on food expenses alone. Knowing this, I was confused as to why the options for very common food allergens were met with: salad, fruit salad, chips and salsa. Sure, I appreciate the minimal effort shown so I can eat something, but it gets exhausting eating like a rabbit when everyone else is chowing down on sliders, pizza, cake, dumplings, mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers, quesadillas, etc. It is 2022, gluten-free pizza exists, and the slight upcharge for gluten-free crust would not have made as much of an impact on the costs as the twenty-four 3D outer space tablecloths you bought did.
This is not the first time the Student Union has been disappointing students with food allergens, as previously in the year they were handing out cookies, advertised vegan and gluten-free cookies but ended up “not knowing” which were the gluten-free and vegan ones, so students with these dietary restrictions were given nothing. Yes, it is hard to account for every allergen ever. What I, and other students with dietary restrictions, expect is if you are going to account for them slightly, don’t halfway care. What would solve these issues altogether is releasing a menu prior to the evening, where students can see the options they have and decide whether it is worth the two-hour wait in the snow to have some loose pieces of lettuce.
I would like to conclude by saying that the issues surrounding this year’s Midnight Buffet are not the fault of any one person, but a collective issue of miscommunication and lack of knowledge about food allergies. In the future, I would recommend the Union get some help from the school dietician on how to find options for more common food allergies. Additionally, I would recommend a general increase in transparency with students, from releasing the menu before the event, to letting students know when staple food items have begun to run out within the event.
Finally, I would like to stress the Student Union to uphold more COVID-19 safe policies. We as Brandeis students are aware of how a large event can become a super-spreader, and sometimes just because something meets university COVID-19 requirements doesn’t mean it is therefore safe.