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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.

WHITE: Vanderbilt Campus Dining made me cry

We are required to have a meal plan, Vanderbilt should be required to let us have a say.
moldy+oranges
Elena Solopova
Moldy oranges in Kissam Kitchen, as photographed on Aug. 28, 2021. (Hustler Multimedia/Elena Solopova)

I cried in Rand the other day.

Don’t get me wrong: I am an emotional person. Crying isn’t out of the ordinary for me. It is how I process things. But, if you asked me in 2019 why I was crying over Campus Dining I would have guessed that a Rand cookie made me cry tears of joy, not whatever this is. 

You know the feeling when a bunch of seemingly little things have been going wrong throughout your day and then the tiniest inconvenience pushes you over the edge and you finally break down? That’s exactly the build-up that I experienced with Campus Dining these past few days. I waited in line forever, they ran out of what I wanted, I had already skipped breakfast due to long lines and it was my last straw. 

I cried in Rand. Thus, the ten sins of campus dining were realized as the tears fell.

Sin 1: Lines

Ever had only a few minutes to grab a quick bite before another stop on your daily schedule? Good luck. Depending on when you come, you may have to skip meals between classes because you don’t have enough time to find a dining hall that has lines under 20 minutes. This wait is made more difficult for students who need dietary accommodations and have to eat at specific dining halls, like allergen-free dining hall 2301. 

Sin 2: Vegan vs. Vegetarian

Are you a vegetarian? Have fun eating vegan, too, because a lot of the dishes that are prepared for vegans are the vegetarian option too. That means that the cheese quesadilla you get as a vegetarian is also made with, unfortunately for our dairy-loving vegetarians, vegan cheese

When lines are long and workers are trying to serve as many students as possible, there is little time to discuss ingredients or check whether a meal meets dietary restrictions. Even when vegetarian options are available, the dining halls are often out of meatless substitutes. Sometimes, there is confusion about whether the entree has meat at all, which ends in waste and a hungry student.

Sin 3: Containers

Remember in 2019 when Vandy committed to zero plastic? We now go through a ridiculous amount of waste each day because we returned to using to-go containers instead of reusable dishes. Most dining halls have a mix of compostable containers and plastic, but student confusion over what is recyclable and where to throw out trash leaves most recycling bins filled with food waste. Just looking at the overflowing trash cans after a meal period, you can see the sheer amount of waste that is created by Campus Dining. 

Sin 4: Drinks

Since the switch from Coke to Pepsi products, we have seen an extreme decline in the variety of options for drinks in dining halls. Right now, you can get juices, SoBe water, water, lemonade and Gatorade. You can’t even argue that these options are healthier because juice and Gatorade have massive amounts of added sugar. We are missing the drinks we love: Sprite, Coke and blue Powerade. Especially missed are options that are calorie-free and with no added sweeteners. Furthermore, sparkling water was a student favorite in years past, but students can only purchase Bubly using Meal Money. In the past, sparkling water was offered in the dining halls as well.

Sin 5: Variety

Where’s the variety? If you’ve ever checked NetNutrition to see if another dining hall offers a reprieve from Rand’s long lines, you’ve likely been disappointed. Every day at Zeppos, lunch is burgers! I can’t eat burgers every day! A lot of the favorites we had in 2019 have never been brought back, and this has been blamed on staffing shortages as a result of COVID-19. The Pub, a student favorite, has never been reopened, the Rand Bowls station has only opened a few times last year and Pho isn’t an everyday thing at E. Bronson Ingram Dining Hall anymore.

“[I miss] waffle and omelet stations, wings at The Pub, quesadillas at fresh Mex, French vanilla lattes at Munchies in the morning,” junior Serena Musungu said. “When I talk to freshmen [about these things], they think I’m lying.”

Sin 6: No snacks

I’ll be short with this one because it is simple: there are no snacks available with a meal swipe. You used to be able to get a few snacks to eat between classes or on weekends with a Munchie swipe, but now you have to use your very limited meal money for such a purchase. There is no “COVID-19 excuse” for this. Vanderbilt has insanely marked up the prices on these snacks (think late-night airport convenience store prices) just to scam money out of students looking for convenience. There’s no nice way to put it, we are a captive audience and they used that to profit off of us. 

Can you tell I am frustrated?

Sin 7: Running out of food

Ever waited in line for 20 minutes just to find out they are out of the main dish? Ever had to go through the line again just to get a little more food? Apparently, there is a limit in “all you care to eat” dining halls regarding how much meat you are allowed to “care to eat” per trip through the line. I had that experience the other day in Zeppos. I waited so long after a full day of classes and work just to get to the front and find out that there was no pasta as was listed on the menu, only steak and chicken. Very frustrating. 

Sin 8: Nothing is open!

A lot of students at Vanderbilt like to keep busy. This means that people are up early and up late. We have work, class, labs and extracurriculars at all hours of the day and we need access to meals that take that into consideration. In the past, Campus Dining could accommodate its students’ schedules. In fact, in 2019, EBI and Commons Dining Hall served food from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, so students who were out late could still ensure they were eating dinner.

Now, there are way fewer options. Most dining halls, which used to be open all day, are now only open for a few hours around traditional meal periods and close in between. Commons Munchie Mart, which used to be open 24/7, is now only open after 6 p.m. CDT. It is crazy to look at these differences and not see why students are upset. 

Sin 9: The required meal plan

We literally do not know what to do about this issue; we seem to have no influence over the meal plan we are required to buy. 

“In 12 years of cooking, I’ve never seen someone charge $12 for undercooked rice,” junior Michael Weirich said.

We are grieving the golden age of Campus Dining.

“Sometimes I can’t believe this dining situation is our reality. I get waves of shock because things [used] to be way different back then,” junior Christabel Hammond said. “It baffles me that students in lower years can’t even relate to having that experience.”

Sin 10: It might not get any better

Vanderbilt’s only incentive to solve this problem would be out of care for its students’ wellbeing; it’s not like we have a choice to opt-out of the “required” meal plan. However, they have made it very clear that this is not one of their primary concerns. We are a captive audience, required to consume the meal plan they tell us we have to. 

There is no incentive for them to change this system. 

Students have been living this reality, and we understand the causes—Vanderbilt says there is a labor shortage. We are privileged in many ways to have food to eat, but if Vanderbilt can’t get its act together, we shouldn’t have to buy such a robust meal plan. Vanderbilt requires first years to pay $3,188 per semester for 21 meals with upper grades paying slightly less each year for plans including fewer meals. Many of us would love to buy a much smaller meal plan and cook for ourselves to avoid the many sins of Vanderbilt dining. But, we aren’t allowed to do so. 

Instead, we settle for a dining plan that we have no say in, and in doing so, we settle for a quick cry in Rand on a Wednesday afternoon.

View comments (49)
About the Contributor
Alexa White, Former Graphics Director
Alexa White ('23) is from Traverse City, Michigan, and is double-majoring in secondary education and English. When she isn't writing for The Hustler, she is probably teaching, reading or creating art. After graduation, Alexa plans to be an English teacher and hopes to inspire kids to love reading, writing and exploring their creativity in all forms. She can be reached at [email protected].
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Comments (49)

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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Vandy '88
2 years ago

As a parent, this breaks my heart, which is to say it is enraging to see more contemptuous and tone-deaf acts and omissions toward student well-being at Vanderbilt. The priorities and attention of the administration is seemingly elsewhere and it is worth asking… where?
As an alum, students should be asking themselves where VSG is on this most core student life matter. Why don’t they have a grasp on the issue, and why are they not working proactively with the Administration to resolve it? The priorities and attention of VSG are everywhere and obviously and it is worth asking…why?
Suggestions anyone?

J
jae hur
2 years ago

just terrible

T
Thanita
2 years ago

What is Chancellor Diermeier doing? Please do your work!!!!

G
guy who took intro to Econ
2 years ago

It seems to me that the way to resolve their staffing shortage might be to (wait for it) offer a higher wage. I know it’s a high-level concept…

J
Jill S.
2 years ago

Unacceptable. This situation makes me want to cry too. I feel so bad for you students. You need to EAT!

A
Annabel
2 years ago

When I walked into Commons today, everything was closed. There should never be a time when students don’t have access to food, people have tight schedules and can’t afford to wait. I had 4 bags of chips (purchased off campus) for dinner last night because I don’t have time for anything else. Vanderbilt is starving us.

A
Ashton
2 years ago

I’m also with you. I cried yesterday because I starved the whole day–– my day started at 9am. I could not grab breakfast because of the line. I could not grab lunch because of the line. I could not grab dinner because they were out of everything by 7:45pm. Vanderbilt dining is an absolute dumpster fire right now. I would like to stop being underfed and hungry the whole day (surviving only on water and chips I’ve got stocked up in my room; “Vanderbilt promotes healthy eating” my ass).

D
Derek Talbot
2 years ago

As Vandy parents we completely agree with this article. Time to step up and Anchor Down Vanderbilt Administration.
Show us that quotes from vanderbilt.edu/this-is-vanderbilt such as:
“Collaborative Discovery – Collaborative culture comes together with competitive spirit to fuel path-breaking discovery and innovation.”
“Diverse Perspectives – Our differences and our respect for alternative views and voices, is our greatest source of strength.”
“Future Leaders – We wed education and inspiration to challenge young, diverse minds to address society’s greatest challenges.”
are more than marketing and branding hype.
We know there are challenges but listen to your students and their parents and start taking positive steps to address those challenges by collaborating with your students, parents, food service workers, suppliers and community restaurants.

M
Mark G
2 years ago

Vandy’s endowment eclipsed the $10 billion mark this past June. And they can’t find a way to provide decent meals for students, many of whom willl pay the University over $300k for their education? This administration should be embarassed!

Last edited 2 years ago by Mark G
A
Anna
2 years ago

Great job Alexa, really hopes this gets some publicity

G
Gabby
2 years ago

Literally amazing. Super well phrased

W
William (She/Him)
2 years ago

Thank you for speaking your truth.

S
Sophomore
2 years ago

I have started to develop an eating disorder in the last two years due to Vandy “dining”.

P
Pam
2 years ago

As an alumni with a freshman at Vandy this year, I am in complete shock over this dining situation. The amount of money required to be spent on the meal plan is inequitable for what is provided in return. There were never food issues when I attended and this is the last thing I expected to see issues over. For the sanity of all, stop using Covid as an excuse and fix the situation today.

L
Lisa Pohll
2 years ago

This is so disheartening and beyond frustrating. How does the school reconcile RAISING the price for meal plans when our students can’t even get a decent meal!? How about refunding us some of the meal plan money to give to our kids to use to purchase food elsewhere until this can get sorted out! This is something I might expect from a state school but is completely unacceptable from an elite private institution. Also instead of giving every student $300, as a band-aid, how about solving the root problem and giving the dining workers a raise with that money!!!!

H
Hire a Professioinal Chef
2 years ago
Reply to  Lisa Pohll

I have to admit, my other “child” attended a state university, where the food choices were abundant and the quantity unlimited! Just needed to swipe to enter the dining hall of choice and pick and choose whatever meal, sides, etc. he wanted without any limitations!!!

S
S. Pace
2 years ago

While I understand that there are labor shortages and supply-chain disruptions in the Vandy dining service (and I commend the staff at the dining halls for their patience and tolerance), this is clearly an untenable situation. Changes need to be made; in the interim, how about extending the $50/day dining credit for Taste of Nashville?

C
Cindy
2 years ago

I am appalled and frustrated as a parent of a student attending this institution. It is utterly unacceptable to be paying this kind of $ for sub par at best dining. I have reached out to dining twice with no response. We are not paying our meal plan until this is taken care of. It is inexcusable.

B
Betsy Talbot
2 years ago

Thank you Alexa for sharing your thoughts. This issue needs to be seriously addressed by the administration and one food truck is not a long term solution.

S
Senior
2 years ago

Anyone remember rocket subs? Why is the pub not open? Why are the rand lines insanely long when the food is absolute crap? Why did you stop providing good drinks at the dining halls? Why can nobody on campus properly cook rice despite it being on the menu every single day? Why is the munchie mart, which used to have banging options 24 hours a day for meal plan swipes, no more than an excuse to price gouge us now? I’m truly starting to despise our school, which is sad because I used to enjoy this place. The one thing I always loved was playing pool all day and night at the pub, and nowadays there aren’t even balls at the table. Why? lol not even god knows. At this point it’s almost comical how much the school shows utter contempt for its own students. I can’t recommend this school to any incoming freshman. Our administration actually despises us, go somewhere where you get something for your money

L
Lauri
2 years ago

The only way you can make them change is to hit them where it hurts. It is all about the money. You need to take this outside of Vanderbilt. Send this to the Princeton Review. To Us News. To publications that rank colleges. Stage protests during college tours. You remember…that day when hundreds of students come to visit…organize, protest…draw attention from news sources outside of Vanderbilt. It is the only way…because they already have your money. Complaining within the Vanderbilt community will get you no where. But if you start making noise…to a prospective student and their parents…any student that does not come is a $250,000-$300,000 loss.

H
Hungry!
2 years ago

I am so hungry! Please bring Munchie Mart back!

C
Craig McLaughlin
2 years ago

as a senior its actually absurd to see how vanderbilt administration treats us. every single year they take away things we used to enjoy simply because they can. they love to advertise their “award winning” dining but at this point it is absolutely horrendous. it doesnt have to be this way… back when we were freshmen it was actually pretty good… please just listen to the students and let it go back to the way it was

A
Anon
2 years ago

I understand that there is a dining worker shortage, but the fact that EBI and Zeppos literally serve the same food every day for lunch is ridiculous. I’d assume Rand has something better, but the lines there are so long I haven’t had the time to go there a single time this semester.

A
anon
2 years ago

Rand used to have long lines but it used to be worth it. Now, I’m waiting in a long line for awful food.

A
A G
2 years ago

Options are so limited, the same menu is repeated for days on end, and food quality has been, on average, barely edible. Admin are not acknowledging this pressing issue despite our constant negative feedback.

S
Still Hungry!
2 years ago

Dear Vanderbilt,
We are frustrated by the lack of food options, restricted dining hall hours and long lines in getting a meal. I have heard my student say that the food lines are very long and have often had to leave without getting a meal. I have had her tell us she has had to go to bed hungry or wasn’t able to grab a meal before class due to the long lines etc. This is completely unacceptable! I believe we pay a considerable sum for the meal plan!

I am not sure why the dining halls don’t open early and remain open all day to accommodate all the Vandy student’s busy class schedules? And why are portions so restricted? Tasty snacks should be easy to access and please stop with the price gouging, we pay full tuition as it is! Other universities allow students to swipe into the dining hall and eat as much as they would like. No restrictions, easy to accommodate! 

Can you please try to provide a decent, tasty selection of meals, while improving the speed and delivery? It’s disheartening and upsetting that our students, your customers, are not eating well. There really is no excuse for this…ask the students for what they would like to have on the menu, what they miss, what they dislike. Take a survey and be proactive!
We are looking forward to Vanderbilt enhancing the dining experience in a timely manner.
Thank you!

C
Class of ‘19
2 years ago

This makes me so sad….as a recent graduate I remember bragging to my high school friends about all the fantastic options for food, and the Nutella paninis at grins! Such a shame Vanderbilt hides behind a pathetic “COVID” excuse for a sh*t dining operation.

A
Anonymous
2 years ago

If only the near-unanimous disapproval of the student body could impel this administration to do anything at all! But no, the author said it best herself – they have no incentive. As long as the bottom line is taken care of, the students can fend for themselves

Last edited 2 years ago by Anonymous
H
HMC
2 years ago

Could this be the reason for the Commodores loss this past weekend?? Are the players not being fed??

F
FedUp
2 years ago
Reply to  HMC

oh trust me – the players are fed well. Vandy paid that opposing team 400k to play the game this weekend , they feed their athletes (just not the regular students)

A
Anon
2 years ago

If Vanderbilt wants to be able to fully staff their dining halls they needs to offer better wages so people want to work there. The starting pay is terrible compared to a lot of other places. Also food quality has taken such a nose dive one of the two meals I got on campus last week went straight into the trash because it was inedible. Vanderbilt should be ashamed of the amount they are charging for meals plans. They need to quickly come up with solutions to make sure that the campus dining experience is restored to a better representation of what used to be normal.

P
Paula M
2 years ago

I’ve been so frustrated with the food situation last year and this year. It’s a lot of money to send my son there and this situation is intolerable.

E
Erica
2 years ago

Yessss! The blue Powerade was the only thing keeping me sane.

D
David
2 years ago

Great piece! This administration continues to show a blatant disregard for their students and dining is certainly the most obvious among the myriad of issues. Glad to see that more and more students are speaking up against this autocratic administration!

W
Wish I Could Eat
2 years ago

I have yet to even have the pleasure of eating lunch at Rand because the lines are the most insane pandemonium I have ever seen from 11 to 1. There is absolutely no time for me to fit this is my schedule and options are limited and unclear. Way to go Vandy. Just go back to how everything was before

K
Kathryn
2 years ago

When people got upset about dining changes in early August, one thing Vandy promised was that if students were concerned about how much food they were getting in line, they could ask the staff for more and they would happily accommodate. I haven’t seen that happen once, even at all-you-can-eat locations. The portion sizes have somehow gotten even smaller than last year, and having to go to the end of a very long line to get more food is not only absurd, it’s a direct contradiction to the message dining sent out only a few weeks ago.

A
Anon
2 years ago
Reply to  Kathryn

Better yet, none of the staff seem to be willing to “happily accommodate.” Most of the time I get met with rude objections saying they can’t.

H
Hungry Student
2 years ago

Bring soda to the dining halls! Pretty please! I love soda and have been brought a bag full of Coke to Rand just to enjoy a decent beverage. Also, open the Pub! I’ve never gotten to try it! Soda! Soda! Soda!

A
anon
2 years ago

It’s three weeks in, and I still have yet to eat anything from the dining halls. The lines are always so chaotic, and the food looks unappetizing. I am living off of off-campus food. Why must we pay for 19 meals when all most of us can use is a small fraction of that? Whoever claims that this institution strives for financial inclusivity is either lying or delusional.

R
Rose Herdejurgen
2 years ago

I’m vegetarian and I eat the same 3 meals every day because it’s all I have time to wait in line for. Very upsetting that the once exciting and delicious cuisine has taken such a dramatic turn for the worst since COVID.

H
Hungry
2 years ago

The greed and evil in this administration runs so deep. It’s beyond shameful that I go to one of the wealthiest private universities in the country and haven’t been able to eat a full meal in a week. The people at the top should be disgusted with themselves. They treat us like prisoners and hide behind layers of bureaucracy, leaving the poor campus dining workers to suffer the consequences. Meal plan requirements, not to mention housing requirements, need to be done away with for good. We pay entirely too much money to these people to put up with these kinds of living conditions. Absolutely sick.

A
Alexis
2 years ago

I have a gluten allergy, and I’ve barely been able to eat anything other than salads and GF cereal on campus. I’ll ask if there’s any gluten free bread and I’ll get several confused looks from the staff then told they have none. The dietician told me many of the halls will have a gluten free pasta or other dish, but when I asked they seemed confused between gluten free and vegetarian (I later checked the menu and found they in fact didn’t have anything GF despite asking if I had celiacs and giving me the dish anyways; luckily I didn’t have a reaction). Grins told me they have no idea if their dishes are gluten free or not and gave me a bowl of chickpeas as a meal. The amount of times I’ve cried the past few weeks because I wasn’t able to eat in the dining halls and had to resort to a box of cereal in my room is exhausting.

M
madelynn roche
2 years ago

the state of campus dining is completely unacceptable. everyone i know is leaving the dining halls still hungry.

O
OGVariant
2 years ago

Are y’all not allowed to cash out your meal plan? I did every semester I was on campus and ate more cheaply by grocery shopping. You just had to go down to the bursar’s office and ask for a check for the remainder of your meal plan (prorated).

K
Kerissa
2 years ago
Reply to  OGVariant

no ?

Last edited 2 years ago by Kerissa
F
F*** Vanderbilt Dining
2 years ago

I have a religious based diet restriction and used to heavily rely on The munchie mart Frozen section to get suitable meals. I am now paying against my will for a meal plan I can’t even use anymore. Ppl at the munchie marts don’t care when I bring up my religious restrictions because they are fearful of getting in trouble with management. Vanderbilt dining needs to get rid of its horrible new restrictions. I’m literally paying thousands of dollars to go hungry and no one seems to care.

C
Carter
2 years ago

As someone with allergies and dietary restrictions, I have been told both at Grins & 2301 (the places supposedly most friendly to my accommodations) that they are understaffed so they are unable to make ingredient modifications. I don’t have any choice but to give my food to my roommates (or throw it away) and then only eat (overcharged) pieces of fruit from Munchie as a full meal. This has been so so difficult and I really just wish I was not forced to be on the meal plan.

Last edited 2 years ago by Carter
Y
yeeezy
2 years ago

aint gon happrn