Buffet-Style Works at Other Colleges, But Not at UCSD

Housing, Dining and Hospitality Services finally realized last month that its eyes are bigger than its stomach and wisely opted to discontinue the frustration that was the all-you-care-to-eat service of Oceanview Terrace dining hall in Thurgood Marshall College.

The department quietly announced that OVT would return to a la carte dining operation at the beginning of next fall.

Different is good, thought UCSD administrators when they enacted the new policy late last summer and surprised incoming residents with the news that some meals in Marshall College would cost them over $10. For freshmen in residential halls, that’s nearly an entire day’s allotment of dining dollars. For on-campus apartment-dwellers, one OVT meal puts them in the red for a day’s worth of dining dollars. The one advantage: Reaching the “Freshman 15” has never been easier (as long as you’re prepared to pay for it).

At other campuses, like UC Santa Barbara, all dining halls are buffet style, which works because meal plans are a 14 or 21-meal-per-week system versus UCSD’s pay-per-item policy. UCSD’s twinning of dining halls with places and markets makes financial sense with an a la carte dining dollars program, but a hybrid system is not as fiscally conscious. While the idea of eating trays upon trays of stir-fry may seem tempting, our stomachs and wallets will appreciate a return to the old system.

The unlimited-buffet style of OVT dining was yet another example of administrators making an impulsive and ultimately bad policy change with little to no prior notice to students.

Fortunately, the other poor 2013 situations — the proposed SHIP premium hikes and last month’s Transportation Services debacle — are both in talks that will include students in the decision-making process. In these cases, administrators allowed services to run up high costs at too low a price to students in order for the services to remain sustainable.

The OVT episode, however, was just a careless decision that likely made this year a tough (and expensive) one for Marshall students. UCSD administrators need to stop making such impulsive decisions, especially when the action takes a serious financial toll on students.

Talk has been floating around on the prospect of moving the all-you-can-stomach dining program to Revelle College’s Plaza Cafe dining hall. Such a decision, without being involved in discussions beforehand, would just reinforce that students are not the priority in administrative decision making.

We deserve a seat at a discussion table for big policy changes — especially if a seat at the table is going to be $10.99 at dinnertime.