HERE, There, But Not The Dining Hall

Author: Chris Russo

HERE, There, But Not The Dining HallKatherine O'Neal

Restrictions on student life from the top brass at Notre Dame rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. As a Scholastic reporter in the field, I felt it was my duty to collect this sentiment into a piece that could really make an impact. However, what I found once I started interviewing went deeper than I ever thought it would. 

The troops have been withdrawn. Our campus militia clad in green polos and khakis have seemingly vanished. The occupation of HERE Ambassadors lasted nearly ten months. Many thought that  with the end of their reign we would see them return to their pre-pandemic roles. To our dismay, this is not the case.

Take the dining hall — far understaffed with waits increasing drastically. Lines collapse into mosh pits. The large bowls and flat plates run scarce in their cubbies. The stir fry queue is more deceptive than the Zahm engravings still chiseled in the stone outside of Sorin Community Hall.

I was devastated to witness a group of first-years opt for the conventional salad bar on their first Boom Boom Chicken Salad Tuesday. Who knows what they chose instead of a specialty salad — God forbid the vegan line. 

One of the two homestyle stations has been consistently replaced by a DIY Subway sandwich line, just without the chemically modified bread and footlong options to boot. 

The labor shortage across the buffet line has transferred an unbalanced wait time to what were once reliable safe havens in the far end of the buffet line. The “Quesadilla Action Station” gets more action than the Office of Community Standards after Halloweekend.

Supposedly, the HERE Ambassadors were returned to their pre-pandemic posts; here, and there, but certainly not in the dining hall. It appears even they had had enough mask-to-mask contact with students over the past year. 

What will be the fate of the infamous freshman 15 if the Brazilian flank steak line is not conducive to seconds and thirds? Campus dietitians speculate the difficulty in obtaining food will lead to the inverse freshman 15, when students lose weight faster than Tom Brady on a keto diet. 

Our campus dining halls are cornucopias — cradling not just our food but the foundations of a Notre Dame education. This raises the question, what can be done to rescue Notre Dame’s fine dining establishments? 

Prioritization is difficult, but we must reallocate existing campus staff to the most underserved teams. The following is a preliminary list of some obvious job reassignments. 

• The LaFun greeter is infamous for looking shockingly necessary while doing nothing at all — ever. Put their talents to work manning the new-age turnstiles of North Dining Hall.

• Look to the stadium ushers, who seemingly disappear Sunday through Friday. They have proven their solidarity with students when they welcomed us onto the field on November 7, 2020. They could only make us more happy by commandeering the dishroom, ensuring that every student that wants a fork can have a fork — lest a salad be eaten with a knife-spoon combo.

• The flannel-clad and fedora-wearing women of Hagerty Family Cafe would go in the first round in a campus-wide employee draft. Their hustle is admirable, but whoever is manning the gelato freezer could do twice as much good restocking the dining hall dessert platters. 

• Have you ever wondered who concocts the vats of scrambled eggs? These employees are illusive, but their work underpins the diets of this campus. Shift Father JayJay Jaykins into this role, which would maintain his enigmatic cult of reputation.

Although we have yet to reach dire wait times, a backup plan must be established. A bout of COVID-19 or a tragic Mexican fajita line accident could wipe out a drove of essential workers. We are only one panini maker accident away from losing even more of our dining hall heroes. 

Our contingency plan should model military conscription in Israel. All students would be required to enlist and serve their campus while simultaneously serving kalua pork, shrimp etouffee and plant-based chorizo to their classmates. With over 8,000 students, periods of service would be limited to mere two-week terms. There is nothing more humbling than shoveling sausage links onto Patrick from Theology 101’s plate or slicing a piece of Reese’s peanut butter cake for Mollie from South Quad. 

Without a well-staffed dining hall and well-stuffed students, Notre Dame will inhibit its ultimate aim: “that the mind will not be cultivated at the expense of the heart.” 

It is with two simultaneous homestyle buffets that we cultivate the heart and mind. It is with anytime grilled cheese and tomato soup that we cultivate the heart and mind. 

It is with Sunday night buffalo wings that we cultivate the heart and mind. 

For now, the dining halls lie in the shadow of the Golden Dome, but when they regain their former glory, it will be the other way around.