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Brandeis is a second-half team

This semester is off to a slow start. Students and faculty alike are adjusting to the new and oddly-timed class blocks, students are exploring the new dining options from the new vendor and Harvest Table is struggling to provide the services Brandeis students are used to post-Sodexo. Harvest Table has added new dining options in Upper Usdan (now called The Hive), a new dining app, new delivery service and a new manner of displaying ingredients and allergens in menu items. This is a lot for students to adjust to, especially when we all just became experts at using the Bite App throughout these past semesters. Additionally, the way Harvest Table is displaying allergen information is difficult for students with food allergies to keep up with or access. Instead of the labels in front of the food with allergens listed, Harvest Table has scrolling screens and information on the online menu. This requires students with food allergies to further other themselves by studying these screens and pre-planning their meals before going to the dining halls—even more so than they are used to. This isn’t a new phenomenon for Brandeis students. Upperclassmen can remember the days when it was Sodexo making these mistakes of not updating the ingredients list between meals and mislabeling the foods; it is the same story but a different culprit. An additional frustration is the continued lack of dedicated gluten-free fryers in our dining hall kitchens. McDonalds has dedicated gluten-free fryers, why can’t we? At least Harvest Table can say that this is its first week, and mistakes and slip-ups were bound to happen. Hopefully, the hospitality group can learn from its mistakes and this will be a problem of the past. Parents have also been made aware of these dining complications, complaining on behalf of their children on the parent Facebook group about the limited supply of food at the dining halls during peak hours. Many parents are sharing photos from their children of empty serving containers during meal hours. With the large first-year class, the dining halls may need to account for the larger student population they need to feed on campus. This is once again a fixable problem if the hospitality group takes into account the community they need to serve. We are also dealing with the repercussions of new COVID-19 policies and the world moving on from the pandemic protocols. Like many others, Brandeis students, faculty and administration are dealing with pandemic fatigue. If given the opportunity to go maskless, students will jump at the chance. But this is a problem for regulating our policies across the board. Some students are being told they have five-day quarantines; others, ten days. With the inconsistent policies, it makes the community confused on what they should be doing. Because the Brandeis Health Center is only open on weekdays, students’ quarantine and isolation times are extended to accommodate its hours, negatively impacting students who otherwise would have tested negative sooner and would have been able to attend integral college events, see friends and get somewhat solid meals in our dining halls. We are a second-half team as a university. We start off with a bit of a rocky path, but we always come up afloat. Hopefully, all of these concerns are just because we are all adjusting to new circumstances and changes, but one thing that cannot be solved by better signage in dining halls and solidifying COVID-19 policies is the insane overcrowding that can be seen and felt throughout campus. This might be because this year’s seniors experienced a sophomore year of very few students on campus, or because the current first-year class is too big for Brandeis’ britches, but the campus is swimming in new—unmasked—faces, fewer free seats in common spaces and schools of people on the Rabb steps in between the oddly-scheduled classes. We should note that while the classes are oddly scheduled, the new schedule does provide more time to get to classes. It was a problem last semester when returning to in-person classes meant students had to get across campus in a matter of 10 minutes. With the additional time between courses, students no longer have to physically run to class to be there on time, especially when we know some professors love to talk past their scheduled time. This is a huge improvement for students and an example of how the university has listened to the complaints of students and created change for the better. And let us not forget, it was the opinion of the Brandeis community—through interest groups and feedback forms—that chose Harvest Table over Sodexo in the bid for a new dining contact, as well as the new class schedule. While we may not be loving their current performance, just remember we made this bed, and now we must lay in it. 

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