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As cafeteria renovations continue to be pushed back, students share mixed opinions over make-do dining options

Graphic by Hannah Jahosky

The Skillman Dining Hall is not projected to be completed until Oct. 3 “with good luck,” said Bill Short, associate vice president for Finance and assistant treasurer. The Rice Family Pavilion’s renovation, completed in Spring 2019, was intended to be a reception hall, but it will remain in its current cafeteria-style set-up until the dining hall’s completion.

Short said, “We are working with the Contractor to finish the construction by the end of September. We will need a few days to get the proper permits, install furniture, and ready for operations.”

Last semester, the dining hall was expected to be completed before the fall semester started on Aug. 26.

In addition to the pavilion functioning as a cafeteria, food trucks were also brought to campus to serve lunch and dinner options on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. 

Students have mixed opinions about this arrangement, including concerns about waste and accessibility. 

Adriana Rodriguez (‘21), one of the on-campus students eating most of her meals in the pavilion, said there was less space there than Skillman Dining Hall, and Amalia Schwerin (‘23) agreed. She said when she goes to each lunch there is often a line forming outside of the building in order to get into the cafeteria.

It may be more of a matter of layout, as the seating difference is only 31 seats. Before its renovation, Skillman held around 256 students while Rice seats 225, said Short.

Schwerin, a first-year student, said this experience was an “okay” first impression to the Rollins dining experience. She said she may be biased because she is an international student and had the chance to get used to the dining hall before everyone else during international orientation. Like her first-year peers, she has never been inside Skillman Dining Hall. 

However, Schwerin was concerned about the use of paper plates in Rice. “There’s a lot of waste. Everything piles up at the end of a session,” she said.

Paper plates, bowls, and cups are being used in Rice because its dishwashing capacity is not large enough for students’ dishes. However, Dining Services has eliminated any single-use plastic and continues to use regular utensils, said Cristina Cabanilla, director of Dining Services.

“As far as the paper plates go, we are using the best option in paper plates and bowls,” she said. “They are 100 percent compostable and biodegradable—Harvest Fiber—and all made with annually renewable resources.”

Emily Newman (‘22) believes that Rollins has done “the best they can” with accommodating food for students. 

“It’s inconvenient, for sure, but I think it’ll be all worth it once the new building is open,” Newman said, adding that the food trucks were a great idea and gives students options to make up for the lack of full service in the dining hall. Rodriguez agreed.

Dr. Mamta Accapadi, vice president for student affairs, said, “I think we have had a good response to the quality of food from the food trucks on campus. However, students are choosing to eat at our on campus dining venues more than the food trucks.”

The food trucks have provided a range of dining options for students, including vegetarian stations. The local options include Barnwood BBQ, BYOB, Jacked Up Vegan, Hot Asian Buns, Simply Divine, and Toasted.

Rodriguez added that “[Skillman] had a lot more stations, too. There weren’t as many lines to get food.” She also said the large number of students coming onto campus this year has likely added to the lines, and she feels her food options were narrowed. “Though maybe I should go to the food truck,” she said.

Her reasons for not using the food trucks is that they are outside with no tables or umbrellas to eat under comfortably.

“There would be a lot more people who would use them with those accommodations,” Rodriguez said. “I think [Rollins] did the best they could with such limited time.” 

Not all students believe the accommodations are satisfactory. 

“Rollins has done a rather poor job accommodating students with the delayed construction,” said Manny Solis (‘20). “As someone who knows friends that require access to accessibility, the new accommodations have been really difficult for them to navigate.”

Solis said that some students have difficulty accessing Rice and navigating the room due to the close proximity of the tables.

Multiple students, including Rodriguez and Solis, said that the food quality has dropped. Both Rodriguez and Solis expressed specific concern regarding the store-bought bread at the sandwich bar.

Dr. Accapadi said she is “grateful for the patience our student body has shown while we await the opening of the renovated Skillman Dining Hall.”

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