The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

HUSSAIN: Shut up and eat your food

Vanderbilt students have been causing an uproar about dining hall meals. But amidst a global pandemic, can we really expect better?
Chloe Postlewaite
During non-pandemic times, Commons Dining Hall is where many first-years dine. (Hustler Multimedia/Chloe Postlewaite)

When I was admitted into Vanderbilt, I was excited that they boasted a great dining program. I remember looking at pictures of the Munchie Mart on Inside Dores and gawking at how conveniently perfect it was. I was content. I was happy. 

But, coming here, dining really wasn’t what I expected. There wasn’t a bustling hall full of students eating while cramming for their next exam, and there weren’t even enough options that everyone would have been satisfied with. Years of public school lunches, however, prepared me for that dissatisfaction, so when my pasta was a little wet or my waffles a little soggy, I didn’t throw a hissy fit like some students did. 

And that’s the problem. Complaining about dining food after teams of people spend hours upon hours cooking it for us is outright elitist. I mean, we get it. Back at your private school at home you had catered lunches. At the private high school down the street from my public high school, they were eating “Cheese Tortellini with Italian Sausage in a Pink Cream Sauce served with Garlic Knots.” Meanwhile, my public school was serving a “Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Assorted Fruit.” Now that you’re in the real world, let’s figure out how not to publicly shame the dining staff by making an Instagram page recording how bad the food is. That won’t cause real change. It isn’t going to the source and is just complaining about the situation, not looking for alternative opportunities. All it’s going to do is make dining workers who are trying their best feel bad. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are some things that are just plain bad. When you find a maggot in your broccoli or are given raw chicken, I understand your anger. There is clearly a problem with that. However, when we start complaining about how the blackberries are too big or that we got Lucky Charms instead of Fruit Loops, we have gone too far. Let me remind everyone that we are in the middle of a global pandemic. Did you expect three Michelin star food while the dining staff has to make sure that getting your food won’t give you COVID-19?

Did you expect the Munchie Mart to magically find that specific brand of cereal when they’re out of stock? Or is it okay for you to have Cocoa Krispies instead of Honey Nut Cheerios? 

Another thing we need to keep in mind is that restaurants make these mistakes just as much as dining does. For some reason, we are holding our dining to a higher standard than we do to restaurants. Think back to the last time you had to send something back because you found a hair in it or it was made with chicken when you asked for it to be vegetarian. Did you yell at the waiter? Did you make fun of the restaurant? Did you ask for the meal to be free because of it? Maybe you did. And maybe you think that’s justified, those are your morals, not mine. But understand that the university’s top priority right now is safety, not whether we have enough boxes of strawberries for every student on campus. 

First-years are paying around $2,686 for our meal plan. This spans 13 weeks, and we get 21 meals per week. Doing some quick math, it comes out to around $9.83 per meal swipe, quite similar to the upperclassmen plans. I understand that we are paying ten bucks for mediocre food, but between the salad bar, the desserts, and the sides we get on top of an entree, the price holds up to pretty well to any restaurant. On top of that, with those ten dollars, dining even accommodates for different dietary restrictions by providing vegetarian, vegan, kosher and halal options.

Next time you’re out spending three times that amount at Nada or The Ainsworth, keep this in mind. When you have to send that burger back because it’s undercooked, but didn’t make a big stink about it, remember you decided to let the world know that your dining chicken tenders were a little pink. 

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About the Contributor
Chloe Postlewaite
Chloe Postlewaite, Staff Photographer
Chloe Postlewaite ('24) is a student in the College of Arts and Science studying communication of science and technology and cognitive studies. She loves to drink coffee and create niche Spotify playlists. You can reach her at [email protected].  
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Comments (10)

The Vanderbilt Hustler welcomes and encourages readers to engage with content and express opinions through the comment sections on our website and social media platforms. The Hustler reserves the right to remove comments that contain vulgarity, hate speech, personal attacks or that appear to be spam, commercial promotion or impersonation. The comment sections are moderated by our Editor-in-Chief, Rachael Perrotta, and our Social Media Director, Chloe Postlewaite. You can reach them at [email protected] and [email protected].
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3 years ago

You’re right I’m so elitist. I went to some of the worst public schools in America. I paid $2.45 for school lunch. I believe the food we were served was equally appetizing to Vanderbilt dining.

The level of food quality does not correlate to the product we are PAYING for. As a paying customer I am not elitist to be disappointed, in fact it’s the exact opposite. The privilege that it takes to shrug off paying $10 a meal for food comparable to my terrible public school lunch is abhorrent. Using covid as an excuse for reduced quality of food is unacceptable. Also vanderbilts termination of swipes for a cause indicates what they’re really doing. Trying to stop us from getting value out of our meal plan by making sure we don’t use all our swipes, and cheaping out on food quality.

frustrated (again)
3 years ago

There’s no way to complain to campus dining and be heard — at a restaurant, as you say, you can send back your food if there’s a big issue. At Vanderbilt? There’s no one to show the maggot to. And when the problems are as big as they are — not just one time, but Munchie consistently not having many items — it’s frustrating to not see that addressed. There’s really no good way to bring it to the attention of people who may not even know there’s a problem. This isn’t a campaign against workers, it’s using one of the only platforms people have to communicate with campus dining.

3 years ago

I don’t think being frustrated at the incredible lack of options (4 entree choices for dinner across the entire campus on a Sunday night?) “elitist.” I’m paying for 19 meals a weak and struggling to use my swipes because nothing sounds good when it’s the same menu every single week and I have 3 choices. And, of course, when there is something nice and simple like grilled chicken, I have the mental picture of maggots, raw meat, and cockroaches (a dining issue from last year, but an issue nonetheless).

And also, to your point about this being a pandemic — if we are expected to perform the academic work of a normal semester, our professors to teach the content of a normal semester, and employees across the country to complete their duties as normal (and yes, I know, it’s online, but the expectations are very much the same or nearly the same!) then why should we “shut up and eat” our $2,000+ worth of food when we are not getting our money’s worth?

And then you add in dietary preferences, intolerances, allergies, dietary restrictions, religious needs… the lack of choice is very frustrating, and we’re certainly not getting our money’s worth. So no, I won’t shut up and eat. Dining is not doing enough and ignoring our pleas for more options.

3 years ago

I never took a solid dump until I got off the vandy meal plan. Take that as you will

Keshav Kundassery
3 years ago

This article is far too inflammatory and subsumes a range of people affected by VU pandemic dining into a caricature of an elitist private school student. It insensitive to the needs of, for example, vegan/vegetarian students whose meal swipes buy them far less than 2000 calories per day, or gluten-free students who have next to no breakfast options. These are just two concrete examples of legitimate complaints that have not been addressed by the university, and trust me there are many more. Calling everyone elitist at will, can end up looking just like elitism.

3 years ago

I’m a vegan student and I have been experiencing health problems because of the lack of protein in the food. The most protein I got was from a maggot that I found in my tomato stew. The food is unhealthy and gross and I understand that there is a pandemic and I don’t blame the dining staff, I blame the university for not spending money on something as important as food. I’m vegan for my religion but I’m having trouble sticking to it because I’m not feeling full. I honk Hod might be testing me, but even He wouldn’t be this cruel.

3 years ago

And Reid, what exactly is this Point B you think Vanderbilt is trying to get to? They are already Number 14 in the country and has one of the most selective admissions processes in the nation accepting around 8% of its applicants. People complaining about the food being eaten in sunlit cathedrals really isn’t going to make top priority unless someone gets foood poisoning. Until then, it’s college. Eat it or don’t.

3 years ago

Thank you, Ali. A student who understands that this year looks very different. VU dining would prefer to offer all the extra like last year. Pandemic! Stop whining!

3 years ago

I paid more like 15$ a meal at Washington University, but the food was amazing and mostly made to order, and they had the massive wood paneling dining room community space that really fostered
Vanderbilt isn’t going to get from point A to point B, without cooking from scratch more, and reheating prepared food less.

I don't want to put my name
3 years ago

Thank you!!!