Pomona Dining Services bans outdoor eating, frustrates students

Students used to be able to eat outside Frary at these tables before the dining hall’s new policy. (Anoushka Sameer • The Student Life)

Pomona College Dining Services instituted a new policy at Frary Dining Hall that prohibits students from taking Frary’s dishware to eat outside the dining hall beginning Sept. 1.

Frary Dining Hall Manager Jose Martinez, who assumed the position in June and spearheaded the implementation, stressed that the policy change was necessary due to loss of inventory, private property concerns, and safety hazards. When students choose to dine on the patio with Frary’s dishware, plates are often left on tables, which attract pests, and risk being broken or stolen.

According to Martinez, 20-30 percent of Frary’s dishware inventory has to be replaced every semester, costing Pomona Dining Services more than $20,000 each time.

Students who enjoyed Frary’s patio spaces and lawn areas as an escape from hectic indoor dining area expressed frustration about the policy implementation.

“I prefer to eat outside because there are fewer people out there, and the dining hall can be a stressful, jam-packed place,” Bryce Wachtell PO ’21 said.

With the new policy implemented this year, Wachtell said he is more hesitant to go to Frary during weekday peak lunch hours. “I certainly have modified where and when I eat because of [the new policy].”

In August 2017, Frary Dining Services attempted to implement the same policy. However, student complaints led Robert Robinson, Assistant Vice President of Facilities and Campus Services, to revoke the policy prior to starting the new academic year.

To combat breakage and stolen dishware, Pomona Dining Services entertained the idea of extending staff management onto the patio area, which traditionally falls under the responsibility of grounds and maintenance. However, Martinez explained that such an extension would lead to increased costs and private property concerns.

“For us to have staff manage the outside patio, that would mean having to add more full-time positions, which would mean higher costs. This would translate into higher-costing meal plans in the future,” Martinez said.

He added that cashiers also have to keep track of students entering and re-entering the dining hall. “At some point, [the cashiers] were retaining the students’ ID cards, which they are not supposed to do because it is personal property,” Martinez said.

According to Martinez, the new policy permits outdoor dining if students are using to-go boxes or the compostable tableware available at the cashier table. However, Wachtell points out that this compromise does not exactly remedy the problem.

“Eating outside with a to-go container kind of negates the whole idea of eating outside in the first place,” he said. “It means that you can take that container to your room just as easily as you could eat on the patio.”

Naomi Baer PO ’19 pointed out that the to-go boxes limit dining choices as she cannot as easily have take-out for soups or salads.

“My friends and I now go to Scripps every time we want to eat outside,” Baer said. “We go to Frary significantly less because of the new rule.”

Martinez pointed out that beside Scripps, other dining halls don’t permit outdoor eating outside of enclosed dining areas.

“At this point on, I’m out of fresh ideas [for letting students eat outside with our dishware],” Martinez said.  

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