By Hannah Richards, Contributing Writer
At Mississippi College, few things are as central to student existence as the Cafeteria, or the “Caf” as it is commonly known. Over the last four years, Campus Dining and the Student Government Association have undertaken an immense project to revolutionize the way that students experience their dining options. Last year, Hampstead’s was given a facelift and renamed 1826, as well as given an updated and more flavorful menu.
This year, students returned to campus to find the Caf had changed. While students were away for the summer, Mississippi College paid to have several renovations done to the food dispensation areas, as well as to the seating areas.
Another major change involved the actual dispensation of food and how students “swiped in” to record their meal. For several years, MC has been considering instituting all-you-can-eat dining, or, as they now call it “unlimited seconds”. This has been brought on by the move from Division III to Division II and the influx of athletes needing additional protein in their diet.
When Campus Dining approached SGA about these changes, they were uncertain of their impact and voiced a preference to stay with the old method. However, even in light of the advice voiced by the students, extensive changes were still made.
Mike Prince, the resident campus dining coordinator, spoke to The Mississippi Collegian about these changes. “The school made the decision at the beginning of May to go “all you can eat”… SGA asked and said they didn’t feel we were ready to go all-you-can-eat, so we compromised and created the system that we have right now, which is breakfast and lunch, Monday through Friday is as it always was. Weekends and dinners have become what we call “unlimited seconds.”
One of the issues that has been frustrating most students as they acclimated to these changes was the apparent lack of to-go containers at food stations during dinner and on weekends. According to Prince, they are still there. He explained that the to-go containers have been relocated, but are still available if the student is not planning on eating inside the Caf area. When swiping in during dinner or for any weekend meal, the to-go boxes are located with the cashier, and are dispensed on request. With this knowledge, most of the changes have started to make sense for most students, despite the overwhelming backlash against the changes that occurred the first week of school.
In addition to overhauling the food prep and dispensation areas, the actual Caf itself took on a new look, with higher side walls and a new bold color scheme being put in to liven up the space. During this renovation, the back area of the cafeteria was de-carpeted, and the tile was restored, creating a unified floor throughout the Caf. The barstools and counter space along the inside edge of the room was removed, and wall booths were installed, creating over eighty plus more seats.
Steve Stanford, vice president for administration and government affairs explained much of the thoughts behinds these spatial changes. One of the most important things that the renovations took into view was the fact that among current students, the Caf is and always will be a place for student gathering, both those who live on campus and off. Most of the day-to-day social interactions and important events or reveals happen in that space as well. When looking at reconstruction and how to create more seats for students, there were many options discussed, but some of them would have taken away the long entry way where students can still gather without entering the cafeteria.
Other future options could perhaps take away the patio area in front of the building in order to expand the entire space. However, Stanford informed the Collegian that these changes are not being considered seriously.
All in all, the transformations of student dining experiences are all happening with the best intents in mind. There have also been other, more exciting changes in dining services teased by Campus Dining. The most important thing, according to both Stanford and Prince, is the continued input by students. Campus Dining has become what it is today because of students voicing their opinions. They only ask that we as students continue to do so.