Kendall Lowery ’22
Each day as I’m washing my hands outside of Malott, I contemplate the perpetual question: will 5C dining return next semester? Members of Scripps administration are unwilling to commit to an answer at this stage of the pandemic. “Though we cannot predict the end of the pandemic, our goal is always to safely serve delicious and nourishing food to our community,” said Interim Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Adriana di Bartolo-Beckman. “We will continue to monitor the needs of students and the community while following local and federal guidance.” Ultimately, nobody seems to know when we’ll be able to start the morning with a smoothie from the Hoch. However, a group project inspired by a Scripps politics class recently reignited the campuswide dining conversation, providing a forum for students to make their needs heard.
The project, led by Ella Altamirano-Iniestra ’22, Paloma Ayala-Abellar ’25, Harrison Chapin PZ ’24, and Quincy Johnston ’24, sought to move students from conversation to action around 5C dining. Whether you’ve encountered their flyers around campus or they followed you on Instagram from their account, @time2dine5C, you’ve probably interacted with their work in some form. As of Nov. 30, the group had garnered over 1,340 signatures on their petition advocating for expanded dining options. “It’s something that we knew all 5C students were really passionate about,” said Ayala-Abellar. “But there was no clear way to see what all the students wanted.”
The group initially focused their efforts on gauging student interest in 5C dining across the different colleges, with mixed success. “We ended up putting posters up around the 5Cs… On our Instagram, part of the way that we promoted the petition was to follow different people from different 5Cs,” said Altamirano-Iniestra. “We realized we weren’t getting enough responses from Mudd and really tried to push following people for Mudd and postering there, but we still don’t really have as many Mudd people on the petition as the other colleges.”
Over the course of the semester, students from Harvey Mudd have remained fairly isolated from the other members of the consortium. Mudd students are not permitted to attend this semester’s 4c events, and students from the other colleges can’t attend the various parties held on Mudd’s campus. However, the dining survey results appear to reveal that Mudd students prefer this course of action. “Harvey Mudd students aren’t as excited about [5C dining] as other schools are, or as willing to fill out our survey,” said Chapin.
Despite the relative scarcity of participation from Harvey Mudd, the petition has been signed by roughly a quarter of the students from the other 5Cs. Following the success of their first petition, the group reflected on how they could leverage this information to make a compelling case for cross-campus dining to Claremont administrators. “I kept getting people coming up to me and being like, ‘if we don’t get 5C dining back next semester it’s not even worth getting a higher meal plan,’” said Chapin. “So we wanted to quantify that and present that to administrators to be like, ‘hey, you’re actually missing out on a lot of money.’”
In order to evaluate how much money the colleges stood to lose from continued 1C dining, the group conducted a second survey that polled students on their school affiliation, current meal plan, how strongly they were considering lowering their number of weekly swipes if 1C dining continued, and what alternate meal plan they would choose. “We found that the majority of people are considering lowering their meal plans next semester because of the lack of options,” said Altamirano-Iniestra. “Of the people who answered our survey, 36.2 percent were committed to lowering their meal plan and 27 percent were leaning towards lowering their meal plan.” The movement towards lowered meal plans resulted in a projected revenue loss of $2.6 million across the Claremont Colleges.
Students have already anticipated this trend, and campus dollars are already being redirected away from the dining halls and towards student-run food initiatives “That’s reflected in the social culture that we’ve seen arise on campus this year with the Mac Shack and 5C Munch,” said Chapin. “They’re looking at ways to profit off of kids wanting more food and more options… It’s not that that’s not good, it’s just that it’s diverting the attention that we should be putting into getting 5C dining back.”
Aside from the monetary incentive to reinstate 5C dining, there are clear social and dietary benefits to opening up cross-campus options. “Even though some of the schools may be happier or less happy with the actual food offered, I think it would benefit any college to be able to have 5C dining back because of the social aspect,” said Altamirano-Iniestra. “Also, it’s just looking out for your fellow students who have food allergies, or who are vegetarian or vegan.” Altaminano-Iniestra isn’t the only one with concerns about students’ dietary needs. This semester, Executive Vice President Emily McElroy started the SAS dining accessibility working group. “I was interested in creating this working group post-COVID and post-transition from Sodexo,” said McElroy. “Our main concerns are COVID safety, people with food allergies and food restrictions, and sustainability.” While they’ve been able to meet with dining hall staff to work to resolve concerns around sustainability and allergens, they have been unable to effectively gauge the status of cross-campus dining. “The dining hall staff [and] the dining hall managers have really no power over the decision,” said McElroy. “It’s coming from very high up in all of the five colleges.”
Despite the inaccessibility of top Claremont administrators, there are still ways to make your opinions and needs heard. “Student governments have an infrastructure set up that allows them to get access to administrators, and they have consistent meetings with them and… a lot of valuable input when it comes to figuring out why administration may or may not be willing to open up 5C dining,” said Altamirano-Iniestra.
“It’s important for students to realize they do have power to make change,” said Ayala-Abellar. “They can reach out to their administrators, or form groups… Sometimes it’s easy to feel powerless or see that there’s people bigger than you making the decisions… but we should have a voice in what happens.”
SAS office hours can be found in the weekly SASsy events email, and you can find @time2dine5C’s most recent action item via their Instagram or at https://bit.ly/3G0Ebsu
Image Source: @time2dine5c