Lucia Seda ’12: Where did my kitchen go?

Opinions Columnist
Monday, October 25, 2010

Toward the end of July, the usual meal plan brochure arrived in my mailbox, announcing all of the familiar meal plans for the upcoming Academic Year. At the time, I checked off my current meal plan option on the card and mailed it back by the first week of August, without giving too much thought to my food options for next year. However, after coming back to Brown from a summer in Bologna, Italy, and thinking about all the wonderful Italian dishes I could prepare, I resolved to go off the meal plan.

My decision — motivated in part by the facts and figures that came up after dividing the total cost of the meal plan by the number of meals per semester, but mostly driven by personal concerns over the quality of the food — was final. I walked to the Dining Services Office and after waiting in line behind a pair of freshmen who were eager to upgrade to the Flex 460, I handed out my card and was immediately free to experiment with my Food Network recipes.

In preparation for what was to become a mighty cooking operation, I went to Target to buy all the necessary kitchenware and to the local supermarkets to stock up on groceries. I communicated the news to one of my friends who lives in my residence hall, and as a welcoming gesture, he offered to show me all the nooks and crannies of Goddard House. While he was giving me a tour of the hidden marvels of the ADPhi basement, he casually mentioned that their kitchen — the one that I had seen about a week ago as I made my own discovery of the building amenities — was for exclusive use of the literary frat members. When I asked where the kitchen for the independents was located, he pointed toward a locked door that bore no external sign: as had been the case for the past years, the independent kitchen had been transformed into a three-person bedroom. With the ADPhi kitchen locked, the independent “kitchen” converted into a room and the DPhi kitchen used as a super-size dumpster (with a locked door as well), the prospect of using a stove or an oven was as remote as trying to bake a soufflé: close to impossible. My dreams of becoming the next Julia Child (or Julie Powell, for that matter) had been shattered.

For the past two years, having access to a kitchen has not ranked among my top priorities as far as Brown housing is concerned. When I was a freshman, the lounge on my floor had been turned into a room, but the kitchen was still available and though I never made a habit of using it, it was still a cozy place to heat up a TV dinner and chat with whoever happened to be pulling an all-nighter that evening. During sophomore year, the industrial-looking kitchen at Minden lacked stove tops (though it was still considered a legitimate kitchen under Brown standards), yet it fulfilled the requirements of a functional kitchen, if only halfway. As a junior, my kitchen status is still uncertain, and you can imagine that being kitchen-less and off-meal plan is not exactly a working combo.

Although my many complaints — through e-mails to the director of Residential Life and personal visits to the Residential Life Office on Wayland Arch — have been somewhat addressed, the issue goes beyond providing an insistent student with a kitchen for the next couple of months. Enabling card access to nearby fraternity houses in order to use the independent kitchen, like ResLife did in my case, is a temporary way of taking care of the situation. Yet, it is by no means a definitive solution: From what I have been experiencing these past days, having card access to the building, but not the actual key to the kitchen, is equally problematic.

As an institution that guarantees housing and utilities for all its students, Brown should ensure that all of its on-campus students do receive this promised benefit of a kitchen, no matter where they live. Moreover, if the University is planning to use some kitchens as temporary or permanent housing, ResLife should specify which dorms have been or are likely to be affected by this prior to the Housing Lottery. At the most practical level, Brown should make sure that the projects for the expansion of the University match the housing capacity that the University has. A recent “News from the Corporation Meeting” e-mail to the Brown community proudly announced the future construction of a residence hall on Thayer Street. Seeing the efforts of “Building Brown” across campus always fills me with excitement. But as it is now, I applaud and especially look forward to the efforts made towards “Building Brown (Dormitories).”

Lucia Seda ’12 is a comparative literature concentrator from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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