UCLA’s dining halls were ranked the best in the nation for two years in a row. UCLA Dining Services boasts an exquisite array of foods and drinks at its all-you-can-eat dining restaurants, and students living on the Hill are treated to a variety of hospitality services to fill their stomachs or quench their thirst.
And UCLA’s way of showing its Bruin food pride? Implementing dining hall rules that seem to be inspired by the Code of Hammurabi.
Toward the end of fall quarter, UCLA Residential Life began publicizing a new policy to ban Hill residents from a dining hall for the rest of the academic year if they are caught taking out more than one piece of fruit or dessert. While not exactly an eye-for-an-eye punishment, this policy reaches that level of vindictiveness with little justification.
Josh O’Connor, assistant director of leadership and involvement, said Residential Life introduced the policy because more students were taking a substantial amount of food out of dining halls in fall quarter, straining UCLA Housing and Hospitality Services’ planned financial resources.
Though that may be the case, there’s just one problem: UCLA is effectively trying to prevent students who paid to access all-you-can-eat dining halls from taking all the food they can eat. Bringing an extra banana or chocolate doughnut back to your dorm is hardly a capital crime, and UCLA Housing’s argument that it needs to safeguard against students supposedly hoarding mounds of food hinges on the fact that dining halls don’t have even a single morsel of excess, uneaten food.
Unless the university can demonstrate an overwhelming financial burden of students taking an extra piece of dessert or fruit from the dining hall – as well as that food otherwise not eaten by students doesn’t go to waste – it needs to scrap this policy.
In 2016, UCLA had about 50 tons of food waste each month, with a goal to eliminate food waste by 2020. While most of this waste comes from food taken by students but not finished, some proportion can still come from the disposal of undistributed food.
UCLA minimizes excess food through a tracking program that estimates the necessary amount of products to purchase, according to a UCLA Annual Foodservice Sustainability Policy Report. Additionally, UCLA Housing donates excess food to the Los Angeles Mission and Los Angeles Regional Food Bank when large amounts accumulate, such as after big events.
These are certainly worthy initiatives. But it’s hard to believe that students taking out an extra fruit or dessert they ostensibly paid for poses a financial burden to UCLA and merits them being banned from dining halls. Quantifying the impact of students taking out food from the dining hall needs to be the first step in implementing a dining hall ban policy. Publishing those findings needs to be the second. For all we know, though, UCLA Housing hasn’t done either.
Like any organization on a budget, UCLA Dining Services is allowed to be frugal while effectively serving its clients. But students pay tens of thousands of dollars a year to eat at some of the country’s best dining halls and live in comfort.
What they didn’t pay for, however, was to be banned from world-class dining facilities because they were tempted by an extra bite.