Friday, January 24

Editorial: New dining hall policy lacks strong basis, needs to be scrapped

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.

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  • Ben Fischbane

    Lurking in the corner, I see the fruit thief. He’s a big guy you could say but I say to myself, “Hey, I can take him.” The fruit thief reveals his visage from ink-like darkness of the shade.

    “I’m gonna take that fruit from you buddy and if you make a wrong move, I can’t guarantee you won’t get hurt.”

    I look at my current collection of fruits: mango, apple and banana. Some people collect yughio cards. Some people collect cars. I collect fruit. Without my fruit collection I’m no one. Fighting the fruit thief is just going to have to be a risk that I take.

  • Nick

    I would like to grab more than one piece of dessert too, and am not happy with the policy either, but UCLA may have a point. Will I be happy if they raise the meal plan prices hiding behind the “people are taking out too much food” excuse? No. I prefer this solution.

    Besides, the whole “we buy all you can eat plans” argument is bullshit. No all you can eat restaurants extends the AYCE offer to take-away food. And the author just has no idea whether UCLA is actually very short on supplies or not, he is just guessing…

  • SomethingToThinkAbout

    Editorial Board,
    Your argument is very one sided and so not realistic. If you looked at the man in the mirror and faced reality, you would have to face the fact that a good number of students aren’t just taking a piece of fruit, a couple of cookies, or a donut. They are taking a ton of food (and non-food items), including whole sandwiches, loaves of bread, ketchup bottles, silverware, plates, cups, etc. Do you think that a policy like this would be implemented for a piece of fruit? Did you actually know that students are allowed to take a piece of fruit? And all you care to eat does not mean all you care to take out as well.
    Try to figure this one out. How much money does it cost to give all of the 13,000 students who live on the hill an additional piece of fruit for each meal that they eat over an academic year? Now multiply that by how much food you think each student should be able to take out and add it to the cost of the already high cost of living here.

  • Lolwut

    I’m sure that the dining halls would prefer to reduce theft by discouraging it, rather than banning students en masse. Losing access to a dining hall over “an extra banana” seems incredibly far-fetched, and it comes off as dishonest to present the issue that way.

    The dining hall operating expenses have to be repaid from housing fees, one way or another. Theft hurts everyone living on the hill in the long term. If a few people get banned from a hall for egregious or repeated theft, I’m okay with that.