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Baker servery considers limiting access

By Anita Alem     2/20/14 11:52am

Baker College Kitchen is considering limiting non-Baker students from accessing the servery at peak lunch hours, according to Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson.

Baker College Kitchen is considering limiting non-Baker students from accessing the servery at peak lunch hours, according to Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson.

“Talks are in the works, but I think it is extremely likely to happen,” Hutchinson said. “The proposal I was given is that we would implement [the changes] after spring break.”



Hutchinson said the popularity of the Baker Kitchen is preventing Baker’s community from bonding. 

“[Baker students’] ability to use the mealtime to gather together as groups, to have faculty and students from Baker interact together over the meal hours has been very significantly negatively impacted,” Hutchinson said. “[The Baker College masters] essentially can’t find the Baker students to sit with during the meal hours to play the role the masters are supposed to play. They feel cut off from their own students because of the traffic from non-Baker students during the lunch hour.”

Ana Alicia Lopez, the summer conference manager for Housing and Dining, was part of a team that analyzed survey data from serveries.

“We found … that 70 percent of students who took the survey at Baker cited either convenience and location as the reason for eating at Baker,” Lopez said. “We found similar statistics about location and convenience at West. We also found that more class and organization meetings are being held at Baker than at any other serveries, with 10 percent compared to 6 percent overall. 

Manager of Communications for Facilities Engineering and Planning Susann Glenn and Associate Vice President for Housing and Dining Mark Ditman said the high volume of students at Baker and West can be attributed to traffic from the Academic Quad, such as Fondren Library, and the Engineering Quad, respectively.

Baker College Masters Ivo-Jan and Rose van der Werff said they find mealtimes to be the best chance they have to meet with students and are already at a disadvantage compared to other colleges because their servery is only open 4 ½ days a week. 

“Finding a seat in the commons is difficult for Bakerites, Baker RAs and our Associates, and many of our students are taking their food back to their rooms,” the van der Werffs said. “We hope that the Rice community understands our issues at Baker. Though we are saddened to have to take this measure, we are asking for just a window of time for our college to function as it should.” 

Baker College senior Kaitlin Barnes said she has faced difficulties with the high volumes of non-Bakerites.

“Our servery isn’t like West or East — our facilities and kitchen staff literally don’t have the capacity to serve much more than the number of Bakerites,” Barnes said. “Besides the long lines, it’s really frustrating to walk into your own commons and have nowhere to sit with people from Baker. We’re starting to lose our strong commons culture, which is really sad.”

Hutchinson said the issues at Baker Kitchen can be attributed to three factors. First, the servery only has facilities to serve a single college population, so the high volume of students overwhelms the commons. Second, Baker College’s location is convenient for many students, but Hutchinson said these students could easily walk to Seibel or South serveries. Third, Hutchinson said students believe Baker serves better food than other serveries, a difference he believes is imagined.

Lucia said students who took into consideration health or dietary concerns were the highest at Baker, at 34 percent, which may be attributed to inaccurate perceptions.

Director of Residential Dining Johnny Curet said Seibel has a variety of vegetarian options, which were specifically added last year to help alleviate the influx of vegetarians at Baker.

“We’re springing out [farmer’s market options] to every servery now,” Curet said. “I actually have to stop from giggling when I hear that Baker has healthier [food] with more variety. The line is so small [at Baker], they can only put out so much variety.”

According to Hutchinson, the van der Werffs and Baker President Adrian Yao partnered with Housing and Dining to detect and address the influx of students at their servery. Data collected by H&D indicates that Baker Kitchen is currently serving many more students than it has capacity for as a single-college servery.

McMurtry College freshman Yiran Isabella Yang said she eats at Baker for lunch and dinner occasionally.

“I don’t think this is a reasonable act.” Yang said. “Each [servery] gets money based on how many people it serves, so the more people come, the more they can do with the money assigned. Limiting access might cause waste of food.

Hutchinson said these limitations are not unprecedented and that when South Servery first opened, there was a high influx of non-Hanszen students into the Hanszen Commons, which led the administration to implement a policy of certain Hanszen-only days for meals. 

According to Hutchinson, the Baker administration is considering opening the servery to non-Baker students at 12:15 p.m. so that Baker students have had the time to go through the servery and settle into their O-Week groups or meet with their faculty associates. Students from other colleges would still be able to eat lunch at Baker.

Martel College freshman Megan Lewis said the influx of non-Baker students to Baker Kitchen should lead the administration to look further into why students flock to Baker for meals.

“If we looked into why Baker has so much meal traffic, I think it has the potential to improve student life as a whole,” Lewis said. “Some people argue that Baker has better food, but I think a lot of it has to do with the diversity of their weekly menu and the convenience of their location.”

According to Ditman, enforcement of the limitations will be largely based on self-compliance. 

“If the undergraduate team supports this, and people do not comply with it, then it becomes a student judicial [issue],” Ditman said. “As the cards run, you can determine who was there based on card swipes. But ultimately, if people respect the 12:15 [timing], it should not even be an issue.”

“I think all Rice students value the college system and value the sense of community that comes out of that,” Hutchinson said. “For decades, we’ve understood that a significant reinforcing part of the community is the mealtime. So I’m hoping that all Rice students are going to recognize and respect this, [as well as] respect the needs of Baker students, college and community. It places a priority on the value of the college system, which all the students should benefit from.”



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