By Kyra Lipetzky
Since the beginning of the spring semester, the capacity of the cafeteria has been limited by COVID-19 regulations as well as the new walls erected due to construction. Displayed on these walls are renderings of what the renovations will become, but a different future is easily overshadowed by the stress of trying to find a seat alongside the frustration that comes with the longer lines.
Mei Jenkins-Andrews, a freshman biology major, agrees that the situation has become stressful.
“The lines are extremely inconvenient because everyone goes to lunch and dinner around the same time, especially because they go right after their classes,” Jenkins-Andrews said.
With the majority of seat limitations due to the precautions brought by the pandemic protocols, the smaller dining area came as an unpleasant surprise to some students after an extended winter break.
Madison Kozera, a freshman English major, thinks the smaller size exacerbates previous seating issues.
“I don’t like it because it was already small before, and now it’s even smaller,” Kozera said.
The renovations did effect operations this semester, said Jamie Ballew, General Manager of Dining Services.
“The biggest effect was in relocating two of the stations and the flow,” Ballew said. “We were, however, able to make these changes without losing any offerings or functionality to them,” he added.
The Student Life and Hospitality Hub project is funded by the Forward, Always Forward comprehensive campaign. Directly involved in the process and following its developments closely are Mike Hustava, Senior Director of Marketing and Communications, and David Hollenbaugh, Vice President of Institutional Advancement.
“The majority of this project focuses on renovations to the existing community dining center and important upgrades to the kitchen equipment and mechanical systems,” Hustava and Hollenbaugh said.
“The new construction is the DiPadova Dining Hall, which will be utilized primarily as a space for the seminary and various events, conferences and guests on campus throughout the year—especially when the pandemic has subsided and we are able to host more on-campus and in-person events,” Hollenbaugh and Hustava said.
“Probably the largest impact for all is the new layout and flow of the space. Dining staff and guests alike will benefit from the new design,” Ballew added.
With increased seating, stations and offerings, as well as new equipment, the day-to-day proceedings of the cafeteria will likely improve once the renovations are complete.
During the fall semester, the cafeteria windows presented the activities of the construction site before being boarded up later on. This semester, the noise of the outside is buffered by the new walls, and there is less natural light cast into the space, creating a drastic change in the atmosphere of the cafeteria.
The planned movement of the renovations even further into the main portion of the dining area raises the question of how the students will be able to eat during these transformations. Currently, those renovations are scheduled for the summer in order to have the smallest disturbance possible.
“We will have provisions for alternative dining locations for any times when we host camps, conferences or other activities during that phase of the project,” Hustava and Hollenbaugh said.
Thus far, renovations appear to be following the schedule presented by Public Relations on Oct. 8, despite the potential for a few changes in the spring of 2022. Phase one of two is presently underway: renovating the current community center, constructing DiPadova Hall, and upgrading equipment.
“Phase two will include the renovation of the entire student dining area, as well as the kitchen and storage areas and specialty dining and meeting rooms,” Hustava and Hollenbaugh said.
Students seem to have found a balance in entering and leaving the cafeteria, handling the COVID-19 regulations to the best of their abilities whenever there is the periodic overflow of the line for the Main Dish spanning out into the hallway to maintain social distancing.
Update on cafeteria smoke
The smoke in the cafeteria on Feb. 15, previously reported here, was not caused by a malfunction, Ballew said. “There was not a malfunction of the oven. The power outage caused the shutdown of the ventilation system. The pizza oven is a woodfired oven and we must build the fire in the oven in advance in preparation for daily baking. This fire was already going when the power outage occurred. The smoke was a result of us having to extinguish and remove the fire, thus causing the smoke and not allowing it to be vented out through normal ventilation.”