February 2, 2009

Budget Constraints Limit Dining Hours

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University budget cuts have finally reached North Campus, as North Star dining hall in Appel Commons will no longer be open for Friday and Saturday dinners. Though a mild inconvenience for many freshmen, authorities say the decision is sound and relatively innocuous to the overall University dining experience.
“We made that call in between semesters, but it was something we had been thinking about for many years,” said Richard Anderson, general manager of Cornell Dining. “We’re more than capable of feeding the amount of people that come through, but Friday and Saturday are our slowest nights.”
According to Anderson, the decision to close Appel for weekend dinners was spurred by the slow economic climate, as well as a hiring pause that exacerbates nights when employees are absent or unable to work.
“Our program would’ve had to have been reduced anyways,” Anderson said. “Normally we would have some temporary workers who would help us out. With the hiring pause it has been it more challenging.”
North Star, now open until 3 p.m. on Saturdays, is hailed as “the crown jewel of Cornell dining” on the University website. The specific decision to cut Appel dining hours was also encouraged by the usual drop in University dining subscribers during the second semester. The drop is due to freshmen joining the Greek system and having their gastronomic needs provided by their respective houses. Additionally, a number of upperclassmen may move their dining patronage to Collegetown or other off-campus venues. Anderson noted that there are approximately 513 less people on a Cornell Dining meal plan this semester, which represents an average drop during a given school year.
“Dining is a very fluid thing, and we do the best we can to cover it all,” Anderson said. “We try our best not to compromise the program we offer, we try to make adjustments.”
Paul Muscente, operations manager of Robert Purcell Marketplace Eatery, said that his dining hall will continue to offer the same hours and options, and the decision to close Appel was made in lieu of reducing food variety.
“We’re able to offer the same style of service,” Muscente said. “Every unit is different, but there’s nothing right now that’sgetting cut. What we try to do on a day to day basis is add variety.
Muscente and Anderson both postulated that a reduction in variety at the dining halls would face greater student backlash than the shortening of hours. North Campus resident Tom Dragon ’12 agreed with this assumption.
“I would never want to see RPCC and Appel stay open, but have choices be eliminated,” Dragon said. “Cutbacks are necessary, and I think this is the least harmful way to go about it.”
Dragon, who lives in High Rise 5 and normally walks to RPCC for his weekend dining, also added that on weekends, the eateries are usually not as busy.
“To try to find a positive out of all this, food is not being wasted over the weekend with two dining halls open, and we’re using resources more efficiently,” Dragon said. “It’s something that has to happen when you lose [a large] percent of your endowment. We’re also going to see tuition rising, but we know that it’s happening at every major university. Everybody’s going to have to make budget cuts, we’re not alone in this.”
The shortening of hours at Appel comes on the heels of the closing of the Tower Café in Uris Library, which now serves as a student lounge. Tower Café’s shutdown was another decision that had been in talks for years but was spurred by the economic downturn.
Additional dining cutbacks include the shortening of hours at Jansen’s Market, and closing of the Ivy Room on Saturdays. The chief casualty in the slew of cuts is convenience for students, but Anderson assures diners that the cuts are only small setbacks to one of the nation’s largest and most succesful dining systems.
“We feel like we’re stewards of the students, and we always do our best to make sure we’re providing as many options as we can for them,” Anderson said. “It’s an inconvenience, certainly, but I think overall it was the right thing to do.”