As we settle into the semester and our everyday routine, one of the our daily pit-stops lies as unacknowledged as ever; our on-campus Anderson Commons, known colloquially as DS. The common meeting grounds to Concordia’s social interactions cranks out over a thousand happy bellies each day. Providing countless laughs and social introductions, DS serves as the campus kitchen table. Although it sustains students both in morale and nutrients, this comfortable environment is constantly bashed for reasons that amount to personal taste.
Topics of complaint include the ketchup not being filled and the silverware being hard to find at peak times. Yet, for a dining center that seeks to provide all-encompassing options for 2,000 students with diverse tastes and allergies, complaints about small situations have an outcome of sounding distasteful and self-absorbed. I know I am not alone when I say such statements are easy to make. After a long day of attending classes and trudging through the brittle cold to dinner, it’s easy to vocalize frustrations when nothing appears appetizing and all options feel repetitive. This habit comes into play as DS gets substituted for home-cooked meals and family jokes that were established by students’ home lives. Much like the average hard-working parent, DS is underappreciated for its efforts most days. It is important to step back and realize that Anderson Commons is bottom-line institutional food and deserves acknowledgement of its nationally ranked quality and comfort.
The parent figure DS replaces is further illuminated by people’s ability to hypocritically belittle and safeguard Anderson Commons in the same breath. Anderson Commons has slip ups like any establishment, but it’s unfair to account for where these miscalculations come from. Over half the staff are inexperienced student hires working alongside off-campus temp employees and full-time workers. This melting pot of employee backgrounds and skill sets causes a rift in ideals. Furthermore, many students treat upkeep of Anderson like any other minimum wage job, and exert minimal effort and zone out until the shift is done. This leads to things like the ketchup machine running empty and not being reported and new workers not being fully efficient at washing the spoons fast enough. I, among many, am guilty of critique, but it is time to flip the coin. We all have fights or disagreements with parental figures, but that typically doesn’t shake the appreciation we have and it’s not much of a stretch to parallel DS to this parental role.
Anderson Commons has a lot of positive qualities. Providing the same salad bar, pizza station, and sandwich post every day may seem easy on Anderson’s part, but in comparison, do students eat completely new meals everyday at home?
Many students comment on the amount a meal plan costs, but for a year’s worth of groceries and accounting for the convenience of never cooking, Anderson is very affordable. Mimicking the comfort of home, Anderson grants staples like toast, fruit, pasta, or sandwiches to be provided everyday. These staples are balanced with new food rotated through Comfort and Sizzle and featured sandwiches at Fillings. Besides the actual food, Anderson Commons presents a variety of seating options and pleasant light (even if it can be blinding) alongside high ceilings that invite students to fill the space.
For the students who want to tune out and eat while they finish homework, Anderson Commons provides the distance to spread out and sit in quieter corners. On top of all of these components, Anderson Commons echoes on-campus sustainability concerns and provides eco-utensils for taste testing as one initiation towards our goals of increased sustainability.
Anderson Commons is a checkpoint in almost every student’s daily routine. Although, like any establishment, there are rough patches, DS is truly just an underappreciated parent. Inviting atmosphere, realistic rotation of food, integration of student goals, and of course, and Sue greeting us at the entrance all add up to a establishment that is more than just another university dining hall. It is home away from home and it’s time we gave it credit as such.