Mixed Reaction to Changes in Mary Fisher Breakfast

by
Mary Fisher Dining Hall. PC: Jibril Howard

Returning students were met with a surprise on the first day of classes: the weekday breakfast period of last semester in the upstairs Dining Hall of Mary Fisher had been replaced in favor of scaled-back pre-prepared options available through the Student Market. In an email update sent to the student body on August 22, Vice President and Dean of Students Bryan Coker explained:

“An analysis of last year’s dining hall data showed consistently low utilization of breakfast in the upstairs dining hall. With that knowledge, we have amended the morning dining approach for weekdays…”

Citing the utilization data, the updated changes to the dining hall cut the 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM sit-down breakfast period and replaced it with a 7:30 AM to 9:30 AM period during which hot pre-packaged breakfast combination platters would be offered in the Student Market alongside the returning “Pick 3” meal plan from last year. 

In an interview with the Quindecim, Dean Coker clarified the reasoning behind the breakfast changes:

“We’ve been looking at utilization as far as when students are coming through, how much they’re eating, especially in proportion to how much food [the staff] prepare. We across the college have been looking at cost saving efforts due to the realities of American higher education…We knew that utilization of Mary Fisher dining during breakfast, especially upstairs, was low…We asked Bon Appetit to help us identify areas where we can save from a sustainability perspective as well as with cost [so that] we can put more money into other areas of the college and breakfast was one of those [areas].” 

Dean Coker also apologized for any confusion caused to students during the breakfast switch:

“The change could’ve been and should’ve been smoother. We [Bon Appetit and Dean Coker’s office] share responsibility. We collectively could have messaged [the switch] better to the student body and got it out sooner. We fully acknowledge that.”

When asked about the gathering process of the utilization data, Dean Coker stated Bon Appetit gathers their data from the meal swipes. An email follow-up to the interview provided a table of the specific utilization data of the dining hall during breakfast:

 

Table 1. Mary Fisher Dining: August 2018 – March 2019
Average Swipes by hour per open days                
Hour 18-Aug 18-Sep 18-Oct 18-Nov 18-Dec 19-Jan 19-Feb 19-Mar
7:00-8:00 AM (4) (2) (2) (3) (2) (6) (4) (4)
8:00-9:00 AM (112) (89) (82) (73) (60) (68) (58) (59)
9:00-10:00 AM  (46) (39) (44) (46) (39) (35) (36) (34)
10:00-11:00 AM (19) (22) (25) (21) (23) (23) (23) (23)
Total Breakfast (180) (153) (154) (142) (123) (132) (121) (121)

 

The new changes to the breakfast routine in Mary Fisher drew a mixed response from the student body. In a post taken with permission, sophomore Juliet Birch ’22 expressed her frustration on the GopherApp messaging board:

“In my opinion, if there has been a low utilization of breakfast in the upstairs [dining hall], then they should continue allowing that space to be available while better limiting resources… [in addition] we are not able to choose how much food we receive and therefore produce a lot of food waste…those of us who are vegetarian are not given ample options for a healthy meal [and] those of us who are vegan and/or gluten free have almost no options.”

When asked for comment by the Q, Goucher Student Government (GSG) Senator Derrick Burnette ’22 stated: 

“My initial reaction to the changes was that of anger. Being a first-year last-year you’re used to going to the dining hall for a buffet-style breakfast and then [the college] drops this huge bombshell – now you have to get breakfast from the Pick 3… I would say the [main problem] was a lack of communication. They didn’t announce that they were doing [these changes] to anyone and now this is it.” 

While the changes were greeted with hostility by some students on campus. Another student, sophomore Casey Braun ’22 had a different take on the changes:

“I feel like it is a better change for Goucher and will help [the college] spend more money where money needs to be spent. I know firsthand that the dining hall was so under-utilized last year – the three times I went all of last year it was always just me. No one would be there. I think it makes so much more sense for them to have it downstairs in the Student Market so they’re not using all that energy.”

In response to emails and queries from the student body, some slight modifications were made to the updated breakfast. The August 22nd email update from Dean Coker stated that three cereal options and oatmeal would be made available to students in the upstairs dining hall. The email also clarified that weekend brunches would continue to be served at 11:00 AM, in keeping with the dining schedule from previous years. Fielding concerns from students about sustainability in the Student Market, a second email update sent out August 30the to the student body from Dean Coker explained:

“On the first two days of this semester, Bon Appétit used plastic containers to expedite service, but then returned to last year’s packaging. Bon Appétit is now in the process of evaluating more sustainable alternatives for the plastic items which are still in use and [is currently] working with Daniela Beall (Sustainability Coordinator) regarding education about compostable items.” 

In an interview with The Q, Goucher Sustainability Coordinator Daniela Beall responded to student concerns over sustainability in the Student Market:

“I wasn’t involved in the [breakfast] switch so I can’t really speak to what exactly decision or what factors were considered…I’ve had a conversation with David [Friendlich] the new Bon App manager recently to discuss to how things are packaged in the marketplace and what options we can have moving forward…no decisions have been made but I welcome student involvement in exploring the options we do have…if folks are interested then they can come talk to me or send me an email.”

While the new changes to breakfast have proven somewhat divisive, students such as Braun and Senator Burnette have taken a pragmatic view and have simply incorporated the dining hall updates. 

Braun opined: 

“I feel like [the reaction] at first was very negative but now people have settled more into their schedule and now it makes more sense to people…I feel like the positives outweigh the negatives.”

GSG Senator Burnette agreed:

“I found a way to adapt it to my schedule because now I got [sic] a routine in the morning where I go to [Mary Fisher] at 7:30 in the morning, get my breakfast, and go back to my room to do homework. I made it work with my schedule. But I still feel like a lot of students are upset with the changes.”

 

Hello! My name is Jibril Howard and I am the News Editor for the Q. I am a sophomore International Relations major. I'm a soccer lover, political junkie, caffeine addict, and hopeless chess player. Catch me between classes hanging out in the Ath or lounging in a hammock.

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