With 5C-dining back, both excitement and new challenges are on the menu

A line of people wait to get into the dining hall with some wearing masks and others not.
Students denounced the behavior of cross-campus diners on social media after a photo circulated showing large stacks of dishes piled outside the door of Scripps College’s dining hall. (HuxleyAnn Huefner • The Student Life)

Amid the excitement of a return to cross-campus dining, an influx of students across 5C dining halls has left already-understaffed dining hall workers to deal with mask discrepancies, larger messes and longer lines.

Students denounced the behavior of cross-campus diners after a photo circulated on social media showing stacks of plates piled outside the door of Scripps College’s dining hall, Malott Commons.

“Seeing new people was refreshing … until I stepped outside and saw piles of plates, bowls, cups and utensils stacked up on the floor only 10 feet away from where they should’ve been put,” Paola Ojeda SC ’25 told TSL.

Ojeda was one of the first members of the 5C community to post about the disarray at Malott on her Instagram story. Her story, which was reposted by several other 5C students, expressed disappointment about the situation.

“I don’t think it’s impossible to respect your space and do the bare minimum of taking your plate to a conveyor belt for it to be washed for you. You should be respecting places like it’s your own home even if it’s not your home campus,” she said.

You should be respecting places like it’s your own home even if it’s not your home campus.”

Paola Ojeda SC '25

The 5C student body presidents, Nirali Devgan PO ’22, Maya Lynch SC ’22, Katherine Almendarez CM ’22, Mariesa Teo HM ’22 and Kaila Teague PZ ’22, echoed these sentiments, asking all 5C students in a consortium-wide email to show respect to dining hall workers, whose workloads have increased with the reopening of 5C dining.

“All students are expected to be polite and respectful in the dining halls to the staff, students and the space, regardless of which college you attend. Leaving a mess, ignoring lines, not returning dishes, and generally not cleaning up after yourself creates more work for our incredible dining hall staff,” the presidents said. “We understand that everyone is still learning the routines of different dining halls, but that does not mean we can forget our responsibility to be considerate of others.”

The presidents also emphasized that mask-wearing is vital regardless of the varying etiquettes within dining halls at each college.

“If we would like 5C dining to continue, it is imperative that we remain cognizant that our collective behaviors have an impact on our ability to experience other dining halls,” they said.

Ojeda also spoke to dining hall workers at Scripps College, who felt that changes were sprung on staff at the last minute when cross-campus dining resumed. 

“I feel that students need to keep in mind that workers are people too and doing simple things can go a long way for someone else,” she said. 

But not all dining halls are experiencing the same levels of stress and rush. 

For Carlos Guerrero, a chef manager at Pomona College’s Frank Dining Hall, the transition to 5C-wide dining has been smoother than what he expected.

“This is my first year here, and considering everything that we’ve gone through with COVID-19, we weren’t really sure if it was gonna be okay,” he said. “Most of the students have been cordial, they follow the rules, [wash their] hands, none of them try to sneak in or pull more food out than they should.”

Guerrero found that the opening has been a positive experience for Frank staff. He said that he felt prepared because of prior management training and the employees who had already experienced cross-campus dining.

Students who were able to experience cross-campus dining before the pandemic are happy to have it back, but still expressed that staff need to be treated better, a sentiment shared by  Kathy Shepherd PO ’23, María José Najas PO ’24 and Virna Seminario PO ’23.

“People should know [or learn] what they have to do with their plates, their trash and their leftover food. Somehow the fact that they’re in another school maybe gives them less accountability, but [when] you see people disrespecting the staff like that, [it’s] just frustrating.” Najas said.   

For Shepherd, who is vegetarian, the increase in dining options has been particularly helpful. 

“It definitely makes me feel like I have a choice for what I eat,” Shepherd said.

The trio have also seen changes from their previous experiences.

“Scripps itself is kind of like a new environment in terms of the layout and in terms of some of their food options since they dropped Sodexo,” Seminario added. “On the one hand, it’s great. On the other hand, there’s some staff that I really miss from Scripps that I have not seen, and the fact they’re severely understaffed is a big difference.”

Seminario also said the intensity of excitement for visiting other dining halls has led to congestion.

“Scripps, particularly, gets really crowded and people will have full on conversations in the middle of a crowded hallway with no masks on as people are trying to transit and put their dishes away,” she added.

Leslie Ahuatzi SC ’25 expressed frustration in the changes that 5C dining has brought, specifically to Malott. 

Two people carry food while wearing masks.
Many students have seen cross-campus dining as a welcome addition to build community at the 5Cs. (HuxleyAnn Huefner • The Student Life)

“[Some students] can’t even pick up their plates and put it on the dispenser,” Ahuatzi said. “And [there are] little pieces of food on the trash can. The trashcan is right there, why throw it on the trash can? I don’t understand.”

Echo Zhang PO ’25 echoed a similar sentiment. Zhang visited both Malott and Pitzer College’s McConnell dining hall and saw the effects of cross-campus dining first-hand.

“When I went to Scripps, you [had] to reenter after eating outside and put the dishes on the rack. But a lot of people just left them outside in front of the door,” Zhang said. “It sucked because the dish racks were literally less than 10 feet behind the door.”

But Zhang said that the opening of the dining halls has also provided more options for students on the go and greater variety of food.

Likewise, several students have seen cross-campus dining as a welcome addition to build community at the 5Cs.

“It’s been nice because now I’m able to see my friends from the other 5Cs,” Najas said. “Before [the pandemic] it was easier to have friendships and relationships at the other 5Cs … now that they’re open, I’ve already started seeing a lot of friends that I wasn’t able to see.” 

James Nielsen CM ’25, Sophia Marquez PZ ’25, Carlos Gomez PZ ’24 and Maymuunah Quasim PO ’24, who were sharing dinner together at Frank, expressed the same sentiment. 

“We can actually spend time together and not [have] to worry about classes and just get to know each other more,” Gomez said.

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