With the addition of music and a completely different table setup, some are left unsatisfied.
(Editor’s note: This is an opinion piece, and does not reflect the opinion of the full editorial staff.)
In September, an ad popped up in the UC announcing openings for a “Boxer DJ.” The advertisement said that the DJ would play “upbeat and diverse music during the dinner hour in the UC.” Most intriguing, the position would be paid and non-work study. And now, in November, it has officially started: with moving lights and a sparkling curtain behind, the Boxer DJs are playing music at the info desk for all the cafeteria and lobby to hear.
Some have appreciated the music and say that it is a good change. Others have different opinions. Paris Golder, co-president of Unified Sports, describes some of the problems that those with sensory issues can have. “Sometimes, when you’re rushing between classes, you just want to get a sandwich and chill for 20 minutes,” she said. “Now, there are multiple people I know who just avoid the UC because it’s overstimulating for them. Personally, you know, I’m neurotypical, and sometimes, even when I go to lunch, I beg that they turn it down.”
Jennifer Teeter, Executive Assistant and Programs Manager at Student Affairs, describes why they added the music. “It was a project Vice President Sarah Phillips started as a way to entertain and engage students through the semester, especially over mealtime,” she explained. “Part of why we wanted the music is because it’s a fun option, it allows for a diversity of music that students have interest in, and it’s easy because we already have the set up for it.”
When asked whether the diversity of music could introduce music that people do not like, she said that she was “sure that there are some [songs] that students prefer over others, and there are some that are more popular.”
When introducing a new change, it is essential to consider the pros and cons of that change. Despite the seeming insignificance of adding music, it is still something that affects other people. The UC is a place people can go to for various reasons, such as studying. Of course, there is a main use of the UC, which is eating, but people do more than eat. They talk to people and have fun. Alternatively, they want to relax. All of these actions must be considered when deciding a change for the UC, and it seems like a couple of them have been sacrificed here. “You can’t go adding features to some people’s experience if that’s also taking away from other people’s experiences,” Golder said. “I know a lot of people who like to study at the UC, and now it’s harder.”
Another change that came to the UC is that of the table setup. Last year, it was arranged so that the cafeteria only had long dining room tables while the lobby only had short, rectangular, and circular tables. Now, there are various types of tables in both spaces, including dining and short tables. Different situations call for different types of tables; circular tables allow for a more personal feel, while rectangular tables have more of a neutral or “focused” function. Short tables allow for a few people, while long tables allow for many people. In that case, having more long tables on the cafeteria side would make sense while the shorter ones remain in the lobby. Now that the two types of tables have intermingled, people use the spaces differently.
“The dining committee and Bon Appetit revamp it every year to sort of ‘refresh’ what we have available here,” Teeter explained. “Looking at the flow and gauging student usage, they wanted to make sure students could change how they sit and engage with their friends and eat their meals. And it seems to have worked really well.”
Going deeper, she explained what they were aiming for in changing the two spaces. “They don’t want to have it be separated as a cafeteria and a lobby. They want the university center to act as a dining hall. So, you can study in what was formerly the cafeteria area, and you could eat in what was formerly the lounge area. It’s interchangeable.”
Doing this removes the UC as a relaxing place to study. If more people are eating where people used to normally study, not only will it make that place messier, but the environment is uninviting for people studying as they will be in the middle of everyone talking.
By bringing these two changes to the UC, the school is neglecting a whole group of students who use the space in a way that they don’t want it to be used: a space to laugh, chat, and hang out with friends while eating food. Early in the interview with Teeter, she noted that the school hopes to expand the music to other hours besides just dinner and brunch, which is currently not possible due to classes happening in Boxer Pause thanks to the construction at Pacific Hall.
However, when asked about issues with the music, she noted that they could also consider limiting it if more people come to them with formal complaints to the dining committee. The inclination to expand these choices raises implications over how the school decides about doing things: By not coming to the student body for opinions regarding a change they are considering, the school is essentially doing whatever it wants without considering how it could hinder others’ experiences. And, with the new paid position of the Boxer DJ, they are even willing to pay for it.