O’Donovan’s on the Waterfront: Hoping for dining changes on campus

October 15, 2014


“Leave the cooking and dishes to us—you’ve already got a lot on your plate,” reads one of the many cheerful blue and orange acrylic signs on the tables of Hoya Court. The university is, once again, trying, in closed-door discussions, to whip up a good reason for all of us students to return to Leo’s to nourish ourselves day after day.

Now, before I spew out the typical remarks about how our food supplier, Aramark, also serves prisons, I have to point out that there’s actually a lot to love about Leo’s. I’m addicted to their cream of mushroom soup and their blondies. They also used to make a mean breakfast pizza during Sunday brunch. Sometimes, the employees who swipe me in chat with me, bemused by the complex legal name that’s on my GOCard. What I hope the university and Aramark realize, however, is that Georgetown University Dining has deep, systemic problems from which  all students, not just upperclassmen, will want to escape.

Our dining hall’s design, for one, isn’t particularly well-suited for its purpose. Placing four small entree pots in the middle of the upper-level hall, and then having Leo’s employees haul heavy pots to and from the kitchen, is an inefficient and cumbersome way to feed people. While it’s novel to have pasta and burritos made-to-order, when we left the cooking (and dishes) to Aramark, we expected our meals to also be fast, easy, and convenient. Instead, we’re confronted with long lines, food shortages, and inadequate seating. It doesn’t help that Aramark seems to like to spend its investment dollars on Taco Trivia Tuesdays and Hawaiian dance parties instead of on our everyday dining experience.

Rubbing salt into our wound is the high cost of our meal plans. The 60 block meal plan, of which I, as a sophomore living in Henle, am relatively fortunate to be allowed to choose, translates to $13.75 per swipe, a price inexplicably higher than Leo’s door prices for breakfast and lunch listed on Georgetown Dining’s website. 

Moreover, a fruit cup of melons, a peanut butter granola bar, a cookie, and a cup of soda, which is all that I’m entitled to at Grab-n-Go, doesn’t even remotely cost that much—unless, of course, we aren’t being told that the melons contain pixie dust and the granola bar will give me X-ray vision. There is a certain irony in the fact that while the university purports to create policies that foster a tight-knit campus community—and, yes, Georgetown definitely is one—eating out on Wisconsin Ave. is more financially worthwhile than staying in for Leo’s.

Freshmen and sophomores living in residence halls have to buy a weekly meal plan, which forces them to schedule their lives around eating at a dining hall. During my freshmen year, in between classes, club meetings, and the pleasure of simply eating out with my friends, I was never sure that I could swipe my weekly meal balance down to zero. The value of all the unused meals that I had left simply went into Aramark’s coffers.

Auxiliary Business Services, according to what I’ve read, is looking to include a Flex Dollar-only meal plan in the name of increasing value and dining options. After all, deprived of a kitchen to themselves in their residences, students have to eat somewhere. Yet, Flex-only plans would simply spread students across campus and add to the crowds that form at Hoya Court or Epicurean at lunchtime, when university and hospital employees form long lines for burgers and subs.

Students and the people or organizations financing their educations, however, will continue to be made to suffer in the clutches of a business strategy designed with only profits in mind. With Aramark’s establishments closed or running a reduced service during school breaks, those who cannot afford to leave campus or make food for themselves suffer even more by having no access to meals that they paid for at the beginning of the semester.  

Students have been sharing news articles on social media about the university’s proposed third-year meal plan requirement with a certain frenzy, not because the proposal excites them, but because it scares them. It deepens the frustration and dissatisfaction that they want to escape from as soon as they become upperclassmen. Whatever the university and Aramark choose to do going forward—whether it be pushing through with their proposal or even designing a new dining hall somewhere—they’ll first have to learn why Georgetown’s dining situation is something we laugh about in private conversation.


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