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Sharpe Refectory reopens for in-person dining after more than a year of take-out only

Food options remain limited, Dining Services hopes to expand menu offerings in 'near future'

The clock struck 12 noon Monday and in the Sharpe Refectory, for the first time in over a year, a familiar scene appeared.

Students rushed in with raincoats and backpacks wet after the journey from their dorm or previous class. The square eight-person tables became almost fully populated with groups of students chatting over plates of mac ’n’ cheese and canned AHA sparkling water. Elsewhere in the dining space, some students huddled together over paper cups of coffee, concentrated on the Zoom rooms on their computers.

Monday marked the first time the Ratty opened its doors for students to dine in since March 14, 2020, when it transitioned to take-out only as the pandemic escalated. With near-universal vaccination rates among both University students and employees, students can now dine in person or continue to take their meals to go.

The Herald spoke with University students dining in the Ratty on its opening day, many of whom were first-years who expressed excitement at being able to eat inside the cafeteria for the first time. Though some found the current food offerings limited and hoped for the return of the egg station or a waffle machine, Dining Services expects to expand the menu in the near future, according to George Barboza, director of dining services.

Jessica Jacyno ’24 and Makayla McPherson ’24 woke up early to experience the Ratty right when it opened at 7:30 a.m. Both Jacyno and McPherson brought their laptops and notebooks, planning to work and attend their engineering classes together from a round table across from the salad bar.

Finally being able to eat inside the dining hall felt “weird” and exciting for Jacyno, who hadn’t eaten with peers at a cafeteria-like setting since her sophomore year of high school.

Emily Wagg ’24 echoed Jaycno, adding that dining in-person was exciting not only because she was able to share a meal with her friends, but because she was able to “get a better sense of the class of 2024 as (a) whole.” 

Lola Simon ’24, who was having lunch with Wagg, said she felt that having in-person dining also brings new social dynamics. 

“I didn’t even know these guys would be here,” Simon said, referring to Wagg and two other friends. “I just came in, saw them (and) had a whole conversation about their day.”

Still, Simon added that these new dynamics can come with stress and the pressure of needing to be in a group in order to dine.

For Willis Bilderback ’24, Fiametta Boffey ’24 and Arianna Baffa ’24, the Ratty’s in-person dining didn’t drastically impact the dynamics of their friend group, which would always eat their take-out meals together outside. But all of them agreed that having the option of indoor dining is “very nice,” especially for rainy days. 

Despite the newfound excitement and possibility of social interactions, all of the students interviewed by The Herald described being unsatisfied with the limited food options.

Jacyno and McPherson said they were both disappointed with the breakfast options, which they found to be “exactly the same” as the previous take-out only breakfasts. 

“I was really expecting a waffle machine,” McPherson said. “I dreamed about it.”

Lucy Carpenter ’24 said that although she didn’t expect much from the dining hall food, she felt like there were only “like three things to eat.” She added that she would like to see more fruit options, as well as appliances like toasters and waffle machines.

Simon, who only had lunch at the Ratty on Monday, said that she expected in-person dining to come with more food options. As a vegetarian, Simon found the non-meat options very limited, with the same or fewer number of options as take-out.

Barboza wrote in an email to The Herald that although the menu currently includes only “the customizable salad bar, comfort entrees and sides including vegan and vegetarian favorites, desserts, snack options and a la carte add ons such as rice, beans, pasta, grilled chicken and tofu,” in the “near future” Dining Services will add “additional favorites like the grill station, additional breakfast items, French fries and themed specials.”

Wagg said that she feels like campus is currently in a transition period, adding that she is hopeful that the University can slowly bring back other components of in-person dining. 

“My expectations for the rest of the semester aren’t that high,” she said. “I am just happy they sort of just opened.”

Even with limited options, Jacyno said that she appreciates having a place to eat that isn’t her dorm. 

“It’s really bad mentally to always eat take-out and not have a specific place to eat,” Jacyno said.  “Your dorm becomes where you eat, where you sleep. It becomes everything.”

For McPherson, even though being able to eat inside may seem like a small thing, it felt really special.

“As a class, I think we are going to be more appreciative of the little things that other classes just took for granted coming in,” she said, “like getting to sit down at a table and eat food.”



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