In its first meeting of fall quarter, the Graduate Student Council (GSC) hosted Residential and Dining Enterprises (R&DE) Executive Director of Stanford Dining Eric Montell and R&DE spokesperson Jocelyn Breeland for a discussion on the restriction of graduate students’ access to various campus dining halls.
Montell said he previously met with GSC co-chairs Yiqing Ding and biology Ph.D. candidate Amy Tarangelo to discuss a strategy that will meet the needs of both the undergraduate and graduate student communities. According to Montell, their conversation yielded compromises that R&DE is “considering,” including extending Forbes Cafe hours and encouraging more graduate students to eat in Florence Moore Dining Hall.
“Not many grad students are eating there currently,” Montell said. “One of the issues I go back to… is finding where the dining hall is. We’re trying to work through signage and communication to… let grad students know where FloMo is. We know there’s communication to still work through.”
Montell provided further background on High Performance and Education (HPE) dinners at Stanford, which were created in response to undergraduates taking courses with later meeting times. He said R&DE was especially concerned with athletes’ practices extending later in the evening than before, requiring more flexible dining hours and a greater variety of healthy, nutrient-dense food.
“There’s an additional cost to that,” Montell said. “We could be like other universities, like Alabama as an example, who build an entirely separate athletic dining facility — they just spent $15 million doing this. That’s not a value or the culture of Stanford… we want students to be able to build community together, and we don’t want to have separation of students.”
According to Montell, HPE dinners were only available in smaller dining halls like Branner and Ricker at the outset of the program in order to contain costs. Then, in spring 2018, HPE extended to Lagunita Dining. HPE dinner is still available in Ricker and Lagunita, but Branner HPE Dinner has been moved to Wilbur Dining to accommodate more students. For fall quarter only, Gerhard Casper Dining is serving HPE dinner.
Following the discussion on HPE dinners, Montell refuted rumors that graduate students would also lose access to late-night dining at Arrillaga Family Dining Commons (AFDC) and Lakeside Dining.
Montell also addressed concerns that graduate students were cooking less in kitchens. He mentioned the availability of cooking classes in AFDC. However, ASSU Executive and Ph.D. candidate Rosie Nelson suggested that the issue was not that graduate students do not know how to cook. According to Nelson, graduate students are mostly concerned with convenience. Nelson cited the lack of access to convenient grocery stores besides Munger Market, and described the kitchens within residences such as Rains and Escondido Village as “space-saving” rather than practical for cooking.
Also in response to Montell’s comments about graduate students cooking at home, GSC Social Chair and literature Ph.D. candidate Gabby Badica said she believes most graduate students actually like eating in dining halls.
“People go because… they’re busy and don’t cook 50 different entrees like in [dining halls],” Badica said. “The problem is really simple. [The east] side of campus has a lot of grad students and now they don’t have anywhere to eat. Cafes aren’t the same thing: the food is not as good, and they are way more expensive.”
Stanford Earth graduate student Shanna Chu asked Montell how R&DE had tried to reach graduate students. Chu said she was worried about the lack of communication she personally had seen thus far, noting that she only discovered via forwarded emails that four of the eight dining halls open to graduate students would no longer be available.
Montell said it is “not easy to communicate with grad students,” as R&DE lacks access to some graduate student email lists. Badica offered to help spread the word about future R&DE developments and added that contacting the Graduate Life Office would be a productive way reach the graduate community.
“I would say that communication overall is extremely challenging,” Montell said. “We’d love to hear your feedback. That can be a tricky equation as well because you’re so busy. We want to go the extra mile… to make sure we can do additional things for you, and recognize that Stanford is a complex environment.”
The Daily has reached out to Jocelyn Breeland for further comment on graduate dining options.
Contact Melissa Santos at melissasantos ‘at’ stanford.edu.