Section: Opinion

Peirce’s increased problems strain students

It often seems taboo to bring up the subject, but Peirce has some serious problems. I’m not just talking about quality issues like undercooked rice, the occasional insect in the salad bar or even abominations like pizza waffles or “deconstructed California roll.” It’s become clear that Peirce is facing substantive problems that are only exacerbated by the influx of extra students from the unusually large first-year class.

Peirce’s issues with understaffing are leading to unacceptably slow service. Culinary provider AVI’s poor reputation among students and long required hours have created a difficulty in hiring new employees and retaining existing ones. The effects of this situation on the student body have been frustrating. Slower service has made lines for popular sections like comfort and fusion prohibitively long, especially at breakfast. Anyone who wants an especially popular dish may wait in excess of 20 minutes, leaving students with limited time to eat lunch or dinner and significantly limited options, because who has the time to wait half an hour for a meal before class?

This is compounded by the fact that Peirce is the only option covered by the student meal plan. A significant number of students, especially those from low-income backgrounds, have no meaningful dining choices besides Peirce and feel the full impact of issues with quality or service. Skipping a meal because waiting for food and eating it may take too long not only means not eating, which can’t be good for one’s productivity, but also losing money, as Kenyon students pay for every meal. Buying into the meal plan is required by the College. The option to opt out of it and use the saved cost to pursue external options could force Peirce to raise its quality.

Long-term potential solutions like rethinking the contract with AVI or constructing a second dining hall are, at this point, nothing more than ideas.  Small changes could bring a marked improvement to the dining experience. Serving dishes that are more simple and faster to prepare would decrease long service times and make overall quality more consistent. One recent step in the right direction is searching for student employment, which should do something to fix issues with understaffing. Though these short-term fixes could alleviate immediate problems, we should not abandon potential plans for larger-scale improvement.

Either way, we need to start holding Peirce accountable. Trying to start a conversation about this frequently seems to get dismissed with claims that rarely amount to more than, “It’s better than other places” or, “It’s better than nothing.” However, these issues are cutting into the quality of life of our student body and potentially turning away visiting prospective students. Kenyon needs to explore solutions soon, or it may face more severe consequences.

Tobias Baumann ’19 is undeclared from Mount Vernon, Ohio. Contact him at baumannt@kenyon.edu.

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