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The Dining Hall Debacle of 2017

It began, as most controversies at Barnard do, with a seemingly innocuous Facebook post. The time? Just after 11 pm. The query? A simple enough question about dining hall meal swipes, or so we all thought…


With a post in the Barnard Class of 2021 Facebook group, a first-year unwittingly authored the post that launched a thousand emails. She wondered about meal swipes – was there a cutoff time for swipes to be acceptable? She’d been denied entry into JJ’s Place, the favorite late-night haunt of Barnard and Columbia students alike, and was curious to learn that such a restriction applied. Soon, the replies came pouring in – the student who posted wasn’t alone. An upperclassman was particularly irate: this was evidently a new policy and one that neither returning students nor freshmen had been warned of in advance. Barnard students, apparently, were no longer able to swipe into JJ’s after 11 pm, unlike their Columbia counterparts, who had 24-hour access. The question remained: why?


Barnard access to JJ’s Place has always been a point of contention. Although Columbia Dining officially barred Barnard students from JJ’s in 2011, the administration discovered in 2014 that Barnard students had nevertheless managed to swipe in. This prompted the administration to swiftly revoke access, leading to petitions, emails, and protests from Barnard students who questioned the decision making process. In 2016, Barnard renegotiated the terms of the contract with its dining partner, Aramark, allowing Barnard students to use meal swipes at JJ’s.


With the announcement that JJ’s would be open 24 hours for the 2017-18 school year, Barnard students naturally assumed they would be allowed to dine during all hours of operation. This wasn’t the case: word of mouth revealed that dining services had decided to allow Barnard meal swipes only within Barnard dining halls’ hours of operation. Since the Diana Center Cafe closes at 11 pm for late-night meals, Barnard students would only be able to use meal swipes at any Columbia dining hall until 11 pm. Students were naturally upset; there was no official word from the administration on these changes. Additionally, Columbia students would be able to use their meal swipes at JJ’s through all hours of operation and during the hours in which Barnard locations were closed, namely, 11 pm  – 8 am. Barnard students, who pay the same price per meal plan as Columbia students, were irate. Why should we not have full access to dining halls when we pay the same amount of money?


Emails came flooding in from all sides. The exact number sent isn’t clear, but one thing is: Barnard students will not respond to administrative problems by lying down. Within days, the problem appeared resolved. An email from the Vice President for Campus Services, Gail Beltrone, revealed the source of the discrepancy and offered a solution: JJ’s would be open to Barnard students until 1 am instead of the aforementioned 11 pm.


These additional two hours of access would revert Barnard students to the hours during which JJ’s was open for the 2016-17 school year. However, Columbia students still keep access until 10 am, when JJ’s closes. These additional hours may not seem like much, but for hungry students returning from late-night rehearsals, activities, or clubs, a 2 am burger might sound like heaven. This begs the question: why are Barnard students, who pay the same price for meals, as previously mentioned, being denied full access to the dining halls?


Though the initial problem of JJ’s seems resolved, I have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of this conflict. Barnard students have a legacy of protesting for what they believe in, whether the issue is politics or mozzarella sticks at 2 am.

Allie Humphrey is a first-year student at Barnard College majoring in history. She's fond of red lipstick, Byronic heroes, and period drama soundtracks. Find her on Instagram at @alisbeths
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