People don’t find themselves in Whitney Dining Hall by accident.
The vibe is immediately different the moment you walk in. It’s almost inexplicable. The low ceilings, the music, the quotes painted on the walls. The tables are packed tightly together and there are only a scattered number that seat no more than four people. Go into the back room and you’ll feel like you’ve suddenly been transported to your grandmother’s house. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.
This summer, though, Whitney is getting a complete makeover — new ceilings, new tables, new chairs, new setup, new colors. It’s going to be a gray-and-red, modern-corporate-cafeteria-type place, fit with a sunroof and lights stringing from it. There’s going to be a coffee bar and all-new cooking equipment.
Sure, it sounds cool. But it’s not Whitney.
I hate that I’ve reached the point in my life where I’m saying “back in my day,” yet here I am. I’m old enough to remember when the boxes of REAL BRANDS OF CEREAL were where the flavored water is now. I remember when they had a machine for cold tea, and the teabags were in a wooden chest that felt like you were uncovering an ancient secret when you opened it. Late night used to feature a waffle bar and an omelet bar multiple times per week — come on, breakfast for dinner for every late-night meal is literally a dream. And there used to be bees — granted, other dining halls had this. But Whitney had real bees in the back room as recently as 2014 that supplied fresh honey. Seriously.
Whitney features vegan-friendly, locally grown and vegetarian options — and that includes vegan pancakes almost every morning and every night. The eggs are real, too — a luxury I take full advantage of nearly every morning.
Whitney’s vibe exactly matches the kind of food it serves. The walls feature multiple pictures of food, wintery scenes of UConn and local farmers happily posing with their chickens. You can get so lost in the back corner of the main room that you sometimes forget you’re in a dining hall.
And that’s the point — it doesn’t feel like a dining hall. It feels like home. Whitney is the place you go to and get actual fresh food and drink some tea and relax. It’s the place you meet up with a friend to relax and forget about school for a little while. I don’t want to feel like I’m eating dining hall food. Sure, the food can be hit-or-miss, but at least when you sit down to eat, you feel a sense of calm.
I’m not sure why they decided Whitney needed a renovation. Yeah, the ceiling has been leaking all year, but that doesn’t mean they need to gut the entire interior. Maybe they think it’s too old and modernizing it will make it more appealing.
I didn’t move into East Campus three years ago for a modern living experience. I was willing to put up with no air conditioning in the summer and the lowest heat setting being 95 degrees in the winter. I’m even okay with the occasional cold shower. I moved into East because when you’re there, it barely feels like UConn. You feel like you’re part of a special community of people who are okay with putting up with the same inconveniences as you; who appreciate real eggs, breakfast for dinner and the occasional smell of manure.
You end up at Whitney Dining Hall because you’re probably a little bit weird. Whitney is weird. East Campus is weird. And it should stay weird. But today, we raise a normal-sized cup to the Whitney of now, before it becomes the Whitney of tomorrow. The dining hall may change, but here’s to hoping the people there won’t.
Stay weird, Whitney. Stay weird.