Trouble on the turf: Long lines at annual dinner frustrate students

Hundreds of students walk around a grass field with many tables set up. Each table represents a college club or organization.
Students flocked to Scripps College for the annual Turf Dinner where they had the opportunity to learn about 5C clubs. (Courtesy of Lindsey Larson)

When JJ Shankar PO ’22 arrived at Scripps College on Tuesday for the Claremont Colleges’ annual “Turf Dinner” club fair, he was forced to join a 45-minute line that zig-zagged several times across the grassy Jaqua Quadrangle. 

With all dining halls closed for non-athletes, Shankar was one of thousands of hungry students who descended on Scripps for dinner, creating a chaotic atmosphere. 

While in past years, each dining hall has received its own area to set up and students have lined up separately for each, Scripps’ layout Tuesday grouped the seven dining halls under one tent, making students wait in one line for food.

“I appreciate the work the dining staff put in and the festive atmosphere,” Shankar said via message. “But waiting in line was tedious and inefficient, especially as someone who just wanted sustenance.”

Scripps’ chosen layout strayed from the setup it used when it last hosted the event in 2016. 

Then, Scripps set up tables for clubs and organizations on its Bowling Green and placed the dining halls at different stations around Jaqua Quadrangle, according to John Lopes, assistant director of the Smith Campus Center and manager of student clubs and organizations. 

This year, the entire event crowded both the dining tent and club tables on Jaqua Quadrangle. But administrators couldn’t agree on where the idea originated.

Brenda Ice, Scripps Director of Campus Life, said via email the layout of Turf Dinner was determined by student activities administrators across the Colleges.

“The placement of dining was in consult with the activities group and event services to ensure all campuses were in close proximity to one another and their electrical needs,” Ice said.

Others said the idea came from Scripps’ administrators. Lopes attributed the layout to new ideas coming from the Scripps student affairs staff. 

“Sometimes with new folks come new ideas, and folks want to try new things,” Lopes said.

Other administrators and staff agreed that the host campus plays a critical role in organizing Turf Dinner each year. 

Tonian Morbitt, Miguel Ruvalcaba and Jose Martinez, the general managers of Pitzer College, Harvey Mudd College and Pomona College’s dining services, respectively, said it is the host campus’ role to communicate the layout of Turf Dinner to each dining hall.

“We come in, set up and we notice the space we were given … and that’s it,” Martinez said, attributing layout choices to Garrick Hisamoto, Scripps General Manager of Dining Services.

But Hisamoto maintained that his role merely involved facilitating setup with dining staff, rather than dictating the layout of dining areas. 

“I think it was a success,” Hisamoto said. “We got everyone through and it was really smooth.”

Lopes also said dining service managers deal with layout. Student activities coordinators, according to Lopes, focus solely on organizing the club-related portion of Turf Dinner.

“Once I get the layout, I deal with the clubs and organizations,” Lopes said.

Many students, like Sean Lee PO ’22, recounted spending 30 minutes in the line. Lee arrived at Turf Dinner at 6 p.m., an hour after the event began. Despite waiting in line for food for 30 minutes, Lee was unable to eat dinner, leaving the line to make his shift at work. 

Other attendees, like Clara Chilton SC ’20, were able to get food but lamented the long lines and crowded atmosphere. 

“In previous years I was able to just find the shortest food line,” Chilton said via message. “This year, though, they had a main line to get into the tent where all the food was, and once you were in the tent it was really loud and claustrophobic. There was no way for me to get food their without being overwhelmed, and after I got food I didn’t have energy to look at any of the clubs.”

Lopes said changes will likely be made in the future.

“We don’t want any students waiting 45 minutes for food,” Lopes said. “I think we learned something from this turf dinner. . . . I’m confident that next time at Scripps we’ll avoid the long lines.”

Next year, Turf Dinner will be held at Claremont McKenna College. The following year, the event will be held at the Pitzer Mounds, according to Lopes.

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