With the return of students at the start of the fall semester, the dining halls at the University of Connecticut seem busier, with long lines and lack of seating. But dining services executive director Dennis Pierce said there is nothing new nor alarming about the situation.
There is a six week period at the start of every fall semester where the dining halls buzz with more students than are typically seen later in the school year, Pierce said.
Past years have shown that first year students contribute to the overcrowding because they’re feeling out their options and probably aren’t yet involved with activities that would impact their schedules. But the sheer fact that UConn’s newest freshman class is the largest in the university’s history has nothing to do with how busy the dining halls are.
The number of total on-campus residents this fall compared to last fall have seen only small increases, Pierce said.
“When students come in, they’re literally engrained into their day parts: ‘I eat breakfast at this time, I eat lunch at this time, I eat dinner at this time.’ There’s this commonality, thus creating long lines,” Pierce said.
These strict eating schedules will change as the year goes on and students begin taking on other commitments that impact their daily routines, Pierce said.
While all the dining halls are seeing high volume, South Marketplace and McMahon dining hall are consistently busiest, mostly due to their central locations on campus. Northwest dining hall also seems to be a hotspot.
“I think there’s rush times of the day where it’s busier than others. But I mean if you wait out the rush times for five to 10 minutes you’ll get your food. It’s not ridiculous or anything,” said Samantha Holder, a third-semester pre-teaching student who frequents the North/Northwest dining areas.
UConn has a reputation for being a “slipper campus,” meaning that students who live in or near dining facility buildings tend to stick to those eating options. As this familiar six week period settles down, the crowding in the dining halls will settle as people start visiting those nearby dining halls on a regular basis, Pierce said.
“Some of the lines for certain foods are long but no longer than last year in my opinion. Even when I’ve ventured out I’ve found seating okay,” said Sean Palzere, a third semester pre-teaching student who frequents the North/Northwest dining areas.
Many students who sit down to a meal don’t just eat and leave. This leaves less room for students trying to find seating and creates the impression of overcrowding. Once students begin taking on full schedules, the crowding will die down, Pierce said.
Pierce also believes the crowding diminishes with the coming of Daylight Savings, when many students seem to display earlier eating habits.
“It can be challenging to find tables if you have a group over two. The overcrowding make eating a stressful and not enjoyable experience,” said Anthony Casasanta, a 3rd semester chemical engineering major who frequents McMahon dining hall.
“Every year since I’ve worked here, we’ve had someone from the Daily Campus write an article, and/or write in to the newspaper about the long lines at the dining facilities,” Pierce said. “I was pulling out (files) from 1994 and 1997 – the same questions being asked about the long lines.”
Interestingly enough, this phenomenon does not recur when students return from break for the spring semester, Pierce said.