Six Cornell Dining employees who worked in the Ivy Room and Okenshields were laid off in March as the number of students eating lunch and dinner at the Willard Straight facilities declined. Temporary employees were also moved to positions away from the student union to meet the increased demand at other dining facilities, including North Star, Robert Purcell Market Eatery and Libe Cafe, according to Dining representatives.
“We had to do some adjustment with the number [of employees]. Some people were moved to different locations. It’s a very hard decision but the only other choice is to raise prices. We don’t want to raise prices,” said Nadeem Sidiqqui, director of Cornell Dining and Retail Services.
There has been a decrease in the number of students eating lunch and dinner at the Ivy Room and Okenshields within the past year, according to Victor Younger, general manager of the Willard Straight dining facilities. Compared with February 2001, there were 231 less students at lunch and dinner at Okenshields on Mondays, 216 less on Tuesdays, 313 less on Wednesdays, 323 less on Thursdays and 435 less on Fridays during any given week in February of this year, according to Younger.
“This is just one week at a glance,” Younger added.
The average of 300 fewer students frequenting Willard Straight dining this year has also resulted in changes to the kinds of food and services available at the Ivy Room.
“What we’ve done is make adjustments to the service venues we offer. We’re still going to offer “Grab and Go” meals at the grill and deli from eight to ten on weekday nights but the other dining stations will be closed in the evenings,” Younger said.
Since the opening of new facilities on North Campus, fewer freshmen are choosing to eat dinner on Central Campus, according to Siddiqui.
“[Freshmen] tend to stay up [on North Campus] for dinner,” Sidiqqui said.
Approximately 1000 students eat dinner at the North Star facilities every day while 1400-1600 students eat at Robert Purcell Marketplace Eatery on a nightly basis, according to Sidiqqui.
“At Okenshields, on any average night, we’re feeding between 500 and 600 people,” Younger said.
The significant shift of students away from Central Campus this year is not a surprise, according to Siddiqui, as many of the students on full meal plans live on campus.
More than 500 students typically change their meal plan in the spring every year because they join fraternities and sororities or because of financial reasons, according to Siddiqui.
“Those patterns consist of change in terms of the number of students coming to Okenshields. Typically, those numbers fluctuate week by week but do not change from year to year,” Young said.
Certain times of the semester require more temporary employees working in the dining halls, according to LeNorman Strong, assistant vice president of Student and Academic Services.
“Campus Life is working really hard to minimize lay-offs of permanent employees. Seasonal [workers] come from a group of temporary workers that traditionally get hired to work during high activity parts of the school year, such as the beginning of the year, parents’ weekend and graduation,” Strong said.
Okenshields and the Ivy Room have experienced operational challenges due to the unpredictable fluctuations of student traffic, according to Strong.
In response, a current Campus Life initiative seeks to turn Willard Straight into a more active social center of campus, according to Strong.
“We are trying to get student responses ad naseum. We want to make [Willard Straight] a place where people feel comfortable and where they can go to be a part of the community,” Strong said.
Students can become involved with these issues through participation in political groups such as Student Assembly and through web surveys.
The active participation and dialogue of students is encouraged both by Cornell Dining Services and Campus Life.
Archived article by Dan Webb