Since the beginning of the school year, Vice President for Student Life Christopher Card has been laying out plans to redesign Lawrence’s dining experience. Some implementations are already underway and began with “low hanging fruit” such as favorable changes to the menu and layout of Kaplan’s.
However, as early as the end of this month, Card will be holding discussions involving students and the dining staff. Ideas for changes range from different hours of operation to inventive new eating experiences that would enhance students’ education.
Card has drawn on his experience working on other campuses as a starting point for figuring out how to improve Lawrence. Of meal plans, which he hopes to see changed by December, he said, “We have only one price for three plans. That is outdated. While most upperclassmen have their own sophisticated systems for how to break up swipes and culinary cash, the system can be simplified to serve a broader interest.”
Some students have voiced the concern that they struggle to pay for two to three meals a day during the term; a larger meal plan would place fewer limits on these students. Other students are more independent with their shopping or cooking and would benefit from not having to pay for a bigger meal plan than they intend to use.
Card also highlights how many campuses try to keep their dining halls open for as many hours as possible. This system is especially beneficial to student athletes; here at Lawrence, going to and from practice and showering leaves only a small window to enjoy a meal in the Commons.
Extended hours also benefit early risers, who may want breakfast before the current opening time of 7:30.
Conservatory students may be getting a fix specifically for their problems. Citing tight schedules and a long walk to Warch Campus Center, con students face a similar dilemma to athletes. Instead of leaving students with snack machines, Card hopes to provide what he calls “enhanced vending.” This more wholesome dining option will hopefully be operating next month.
Card’s vision for Lawrence’s dining experience extends beyond logistic improvements and incorporates his own personal philosophy. He prefaced this with a question to the dining staff: “What are your educational goals when a student walks into the dining hall?” He admits, “I know this is an odd question, but I feel that we learn in many different ways in a variety of different spaces.”
For example, a dining hall may teach students how to be more deliberate about their dietary style and provide nutritional information, actively or passively. The most hands-on approach to this would be what Card has observed at other schools, where students cook their own food as they go.
This may bring to mind the trope of accusing school subjects of not pertaining to the “real world” (“School never taught me how to file my taxes”). Cooking, an often neglected real world skill, is taught in this setting by a trained chef.
Card notes, “None of this has to be intrusive, but we should be mindful that academic institutions are centered around learning.”
What’s right for Lawrence needs to be informed by Lawrence students. Whether it is persistent problems such as long wait times at the café or less obvious issues concerning the experience of dining, there is still time and room for students to help realize goals for improvement.
Since the talks VP Card intends to hold are yet to happen, it is worthwhile for members of the Lawrence community to look out for when they can step up and have a say in how they eat.