Dining halls to return to original 9 pm closing time
Beginning tonight, Livingston Dining Commons will be open until 9 p.m. The other three dining halls will follow suit Oct. 14 onwards, and will remain open for an extra hour.
Joseph Charette, executive director of Dining Services, said the decision to reopen the halls until 9 p.m., was made due to a variety of factors. On Livingston, the dining hall has a line out the door at 8 p.m. almost every night.
In an article in the September 16 issue of the Daily Targum, Charette explained that by cutting one hour from all four dining halls for two semesters, Dining Services would save roughly $150,000.
“We looked at the $150,000 projected throughout the year,” Charette said. “What is happening is they are scheduled to close at 8, [and] they are asking people to stay a little bit longer until they get everyone in. You ask people to stay longer, you’re dwindling away that $150,000.”
Other campuses were asking for more staff on their take-out areas, he said. Take-out had become so busy between 8 and 9 p.m., the staff had trouble handling it and asked for more people to help move the line along.
It did not make sense to put extra people on take-out, when they could just use the staff to keep the halls open an extra hour, Charette said.
“Students are angry over losing an extra hour in the main dining room,” Charette said. “If we’re going to dwindle away that $150,000, and let’s say it became $75,000, or $50,000, is it really worth that kind of money to inconvenience the students?”
When it came to finances, Charette said members of the Rutgers University Student Assembly met with him to help work on the finances of the budget.
Jacob Nieman, university affairs chair for RUSA, said he met with Charette to talk about how students were dealing with the loss of the hour at the dining halls and what options they had.
“I met with [Charette] about [three] weeks ago, and we wanted to figure out why this was happening, what was the reason for the change in hours,” said Nieman, a School of Arts and Sciences junior.
“I wanted to get the details so I could go to RUSA, go to the student body and have the facts. There’s rumors flying around all the time, and we wanted the facts,” he said.
Rather than closing the halls at 8 p.m., Nieman said he and another member of RUSA met with Charette to discuss some options.
“Dining Services spends a lot of money on food,” he said. “We were willing to sacrifice a name brand here and there to save money so they could stay open until 9.”
RUSA and Dining Services discussed ideas, like cutting back on name brands in items that wouldn’t be as noticeable, like pasta, Charette said.
Staying open until 8 p.m. got to a point where it did not make sense anymore, he said. Students were not getting the service they were looking for.
Pavel Sokolov, president of RUSA, said he is happy Charette decided to keep the dining halls open until 9 p.m. He is hoping to work with Charette and see where they can find savings in the budget.
Livingston Dining Commons will open earlier than the rest because of the way the scheduling breaks down internally, Charette said. The rest of the halls will have an additional week to prepare.
“When you change your employees’ schedules, you have to give them a few weeks notice,” he said. “Because Livingston was already not able to close at 8 o’clock, they felt they had some people there longer anyway. It’s a little bit easier for them to do it.”
When looking at the numbers from Brower Commons, Charette said it was odd so many people were complaining about the eat-in hours, when take-out was just as high.
“As it turns out, I started looking at the take-out and eat-in numbers at Brower [on Thursday], they are almost exactly the same,” he said. “It was kind of odd so many people were upset losing the hour when half of them were going to take out anyway.”
Yessid Ceballos, the founder of the petition on Change.org to keep the halls open later, said he is glad the dining halls will remain open an extra hour.
“[I want to say] thank you to dining services for understanding the students” said Ceballos, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.
As for the final decision to keep the halls open until 9 p.m., Charette said there were no outside factors that contributed to the decision, including the petition on Change.org. It simply came down the numbers.
“A careful study of hours resulted in slow dwindling of the savings, and led me to decide to reinstate the hours,” he said. “Why would we add more people to take-out when we could just reopen the dining room? That’s really what it came down to.”
When the cost of savings was spread among the four dining halls, it was not very significant, Charette said. After considering the cost of some halls adding more staff to take-out coupled with the fact that Livingston could not close on time, the full savings were not there.
“So you start looking at the numbers and you say it’s just not worth it,” he said. “[We’re] not providing the service students are asking for. You’re not getting enough bang for your buck.”