On April 1, Sodexo implemented a trial run of the dining halls on campus forgoing trays in an attempt to waste less food, consume less energy, and reduce the amount of water and detergents used. Upon entering the dining hall and participating in the event, I realized the difficulty in trying to carry two to three cups and a bowl at the same time. At first, I was frustrated and even thought of expressing my concern to Sodexo, whether that be through comment cards or talking directly to them. I decided I would first see how lunch went. As it came to lunch time, I walked into Russell Sage Dining Hall to see that plates and bowls were strewn across several tables and one of the staff members was complaining to another that students had left their items on the table carelessly, to show their dissatisfaction with the program. Iíll be the first to say that I thought about doing just what those students did when I had come in for breakfast, but found it unreasonable and out of order as a response. Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed in the petty actions of my fellow students at RPI.
Later this past week, I heard that the experience at Commons Dining Hall was far worse. Despite all of these problems, I was sort of looking forward to seeing a second edition of the program and to see it continue throughout April. Much to my dismay, I walked into Sage Dining Hall yesterday to find trays in full rotation. I decided I would try to not use them that day in order to individually continue the program.
We can definitely see tension between students and the dining services that has been caused by the Trayless Tuesday program, and I can see both sides to the argument. A tray creates a psychological feeling of ownership and personal space when you set it down at a table. It indicates someone is sitting there and hasnít just left their dishes lying on the table. Itís also something that we are accustomed to using on a daily basis. The convenience for students is also clear. I also recognize that there isnít a need for them because it does increase the amount of dishes we use for dinner and can potentially promote wasted food.
The important thing to realize is that it may be most effective if done on a volunteer basis for the time being. Keep the trays in the dining system, but let students know about the effects not using one can have on the overall system. Iím sure many students would feel like they can start to make a difference, even if a very small one, simply by going without a tray whenever they can. Putting up promotional fliers and getting the word out to students will increase their awareness of the issues that are being addressed and how they can help out, giving them an opt-in opportunity that doesnít invade the ďrightĒ of other students to use a tray.
It is rumored that Sodexo is looking to implement this pilot program in full next year. The new strategy of implementation focuses greatly on incoming students not being used to using trays on a daily basis. This will allow for the widest acceptance of the change, but I feel there will still be some dissonance from the rest of the student body. The most important thing is to get out the word about such an initiative and what students can do on an individual level to address the issues. Getting student groups to support the initiative will also increase its level of acceptance. Lastly, it is important to hear what the students have to say. Being able to talk directly to Sodexo in a forum environment versus simply filling out a comment card would give students slightly more control (or at least the feeling of it) over their dining experience at RPI.
The students who showed their disrespect for the initiative will only continue to do so if the program is continued this semester, and I see where Sodexo is coming from. I feel passionate enough, however, to address the issues that have been presented by the program and allow students to know about the benefits before simply putting up a few fliers and then jumping off the deep end into the program.