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Undergraduate Senate is hungry for answers from R&DE

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Undergraduate senators raised concerns about potential changes to row house meals to Stanford Dining Executive Director Eric Montell during their Tuesday meeting.

Building more consistent menus is among the prospective changes to row house dining, Montell said. Due to a new vendor system, high chef turnover and technological difficulties with ordering ingredients, Montell said the changes are needed to “elevate some of the houses that are struggling.”

Residential and Dining Enterprises (R&DE) hopes to facilitate better communication and ingredient planning between row house chefs, Montell said. He added that the menus would also incorporate more “student favorites” and allow residents to be better informed about what is being served ahead of time.

However, “we have no intent to fully standardize the houses,” Montell said.

Senator Darryl Thompson ’23 broached concerns about the limited options available to those with dietary restrictions, especially vegans and vegetarians, in row house dining. 

Montell responded that while R&DE works with a vegan sous chef, Jay-Ar Pugao, to ensure that vegan options are available, it is difficult to provide the same variety in row houses as in traditional dining halls. 

“We recognize that it’s hard to replicate all of the options in a very large dining hall and compress that down into a smaller house,” Montell said.

Senator Cayla Withers ’23 raised the issue of Suites dining’s limited mealtime hours, which often conflict with students’ class schedules, potentially leaving them without food. R&DE has already expanded the mealtime window from 45 minutes to two hours, Montell said. Chefs also prepare refrigerated meals, such as sandwiches and salads, available to students between meal hours. Withers also brought up the food insecurity faced by some first generation and/or low income (FLI) students, especially those in the Mirrielees dorm, who are struggling to afford groceries.

Montell said that R&DE is working to address these “systemic issues that have been on the road for a long time.” He pointed to progress in that the Suites’ meal plan is no longer the most expensive plan on campus — it now costs the same as the dining hall plans. 

Several students are also calling for late-night study spaces, according to Montell. This demand comes while several libraries are operating with limited hours due to staffing shortages. According to Montell, R&DE is working to keep dining halls open longer so that students can use them as study spaces. While late night dining would still not be available, students could potentially do their work in dining halls beyond current operating hours as early as Week 10, Montell said.

Senator Marion Santo ’23 asked why restaurants in the Tresidder Student Union no longer accept meal plan dollars. Montell explained that retail restaurants in Tresidder — like Subway and Panda Express — were previously managed by R&DE but are now managed by third-party vendors.

Senators also unanimously passed the Frosh Representation Act, which will allow up to three members of Frosh Council to serve as ex-officio members of the Senate starting winter quarter. As ex-officio members, the frosh will have all powers afforded to senators except the ability to vote.  If the winter pilot program is successful, the Undergraduate Senate may also extend formal ex-officio status to the sophomore, junior and senior class cabinets in the spring.

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Jackie Liu ‘25 is a Campus Life writer for the News section. Contact her at news 'at' stanforddaily.com.