By Erin Woo
Graduate students were not allowed to attend last Thursday’s Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE) Lunar New Year dinner, a decision Graduate Student Council (GSC) co-chair Amy Tarangelo called “discriminatory” and “really irresponsible” in a GSC meeting last Wednesday.
Because Thursday’s dinner was held in Wilbur Dining as part of the High Performance Education (HPE) program, only undergraduates were allowed to participate.
HPE dinners, high-caloric meals designed for athletes but open to all undergraduate students, are undergraduate-only “in large part because of the special role of dining halls in building community and in supporting the programming offered by resident fellows (RFs) and other residential staff,” R&DE spokesperson Jocelyn Breeland wrote in an email to The Daily.
Breeland also noted that theme dinners are primarily funded by undergraduate meal plans.
“Graduate student meal plans, offered at a significant discount, contribute to operation of the overall dining program,” Breeland wrote.
According to GSC co-chair Yiqing Ding, graduate students — 13 percent of whom are Asian, as of fall 2017 — were allowed to attend past Lunar New Year dinners.
This year, the GSC took issue with R&DE’s decision to hold the Lunar New Year celebration at a HPE location in the first place, said Ding, a third-year aeronautics and astronautics M.S. student.
Wilbur Dining, which traditionally hosts the Lunar New Year dinner, is home to R&DE’s “Asian dining concept,” Star Ginger, and is the primary dining hall for the Asian-American theme house Okada.
Graduate students’ exclusion from the Lunar New Year dinner comes amid ongoing conflict between R&DE and graduate students, who feel as if the University has not done enough to compensate for reduced dinner options after the HPE program was expanded from one to four locations at the beginning of the 2018-19 academic year.
In response to graduate student criticism at the beginning of fall quarter, R&DE extended dining hours at Florence Moore (FloMo), Stern and Arrillaga Family Dining Commons; re-opened Ricker Dining to graduate students from 7–8:30 p.m. and opened Forbes Family Cafe, located in the Huang Engineering Center, for dinner.
Since the beginning of winter quarter, Breeland said, Gerhard Casper Dining no longer serves HPE dinners, making it another option for graduate students. Upcoming themed dinners, such as St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo and Eid al Fitr, will be open to graduate students as well.
However, Ding told The Daily that such changes by R&DE have not felt like enough.
“I do like that they are trying to work on this issue,” Ding said. “We do need to find a solution as soon as possible because people are being affected, and it has been too long. It has been a quarter and a half now.”
The GSC is in “talks” with R&DE to create additional compromises, Ding told The Daily. In her email, Breeland confirmed that “dialogue with the GSC co-chairs is ongoing,” and that R&DE “always welcome[s] student suggestions.”
“On this issue, we must balance the undergraduate residential programming needs with graduate student dining preferences,” Breeland wrote.
Contact Erin Woo at erinkwoo ‘at’ stanford.edu.