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Letter to leadership regarding Row kitchen closures

By

Dear leadership in Students Affairs,

My name is Pedro, and I am the financial manager of Casa Italiana on the Row. I will continue living and staffing in Casa Italiana next quarter.

I urge you to reconsider the closure of kitchens in the Row during the next few weeks. I have been talking to my residents remaining in the house, and I have heard consistently how access to a kitchen is absolutely fundamental to ease mental health challenges that will come with this social isolation and build a community around us in these very difficult times. 

First, while looking at the FAQ, I read that “For RF [resident fellow] houses, the kitchenettes will remain serviced by custodial staff and available for use unless the RFs and/or student staff of that house indicate otherwise.” I have trouble understanding why our Row kitchen will introduce additional health and safety risks while the smaller and much harder to sanitize kitchenettes in dorms are completely fine. Here on the Row, for instance, we have a Hobart station as well as extensive access to cleaning products and disinfectants, neither of which are available to residents in RF houses

Second, the solution proposed by Residential Education (ResEd) in terms of dining plans (picking up a prepacked meal at the dining hall 19 times per week) in itself will expose us to much much higher risks. If we decide to stay in the house, we can order our own groceries online and therefore limit our exposure to others. Forcing us to leave the house 19 times per week, and gather around a dining hall (even if outside, and even if limited to 35 people) exposes us to unnecessary risks.

Third, as has been advocated multiple times on this campus, dining hall food 19 times per week does not represent food security. Humans cannot survive weekends with exclusively four prepacked meals, and this situation is adding additional stress on low-income students who will have to spend more money on snacks and food purchased off campus. Not only we will have to walk to the dining hall, but we will still have to go off campus or order food online, which absolutely does not minimize our risks. 

Fourth, we have shown as staff in Casa that we can take responsibility for ourselves and keep the kitchen in a pristine state year after year. We don’t hire a hasher, and we have students and staff completely clean and disinfect the kitchen after dinner and at night every single day. We know how to take care of this kitchen and all of its supplies extremely well. This is particularly true of the two staff members who are staying, as we have been living in the house for almost two years now. 

Fifth, I would like to remind you that the dining option offered by ResEd is not very attractive to many students, and in one way or another, students have already started to find ways to go around campus to find a kitchen either in undergraduate housing or graduate housing through friends. Therefore, in practical terms, this policy will actually increase the flux of students around campus, and cooking will no longer be limited to the self-isolated communities as it could be in the case that row kitchens remained open. Consequently, if the concern is indeed the health and safety of students, I urge you to keep our kitchen in Casa open. 

I would be more than happy to further explain all these concerns in person (i.e. over Zoom), and I hope you can understand our motivations and worries. Having to start classes again in such conditions without being able to leave the house, meet up with friends or even go to the gym will be a great academic challenge. Having access to a kitchen is the bare minimum that will help us, as a small sheltered community, to endure these hard times, and make sure we can still take advantage of the educational opportunities provided to us. 

Stay safe. 

Best, 

Pedro

Contact Pedro Guimarães Martins at pedrogm ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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