Amid speculations about a potential transition to a retail, a la carte dining establishment, Patti Klos, director of Tufts Dining and Business Services, announced that Carmichael Dining Center will remain residential and buffet-style in the upcoming year. The transition to a gluten-, peanut- and tree-nut-free facility stands, Klos said.
According to Klos, while deciding to convert the dining hall to a gluten-, peanut- and tree-nut-free facility, Tufts Dining was also considering converting Carmichael to a retail-style dining option similar to Hodgdon Food-on-the-Run.
“This transition [to gluten, peanut and tree nut free] provided us a natural time to consider whether it would also be advantageous to transition Carmichael from a residential format (all-you-can-eat) to a retail format a la carte,” Klos wrote in an email to the Daily. “There are benefits to both options, and we have heard from supporters of both options.”
However, the university ultimately nixed plans to convert the dining hall to a retail format, while its transition to a gluten-, peanut- and tree-nut-free facility will continue as planned.
“Ultimately, we have decided that Carmichael will remain a residential format for the upcoming year,” Klos said. “Students will be able to use their meal swipes at Carmichael, like they do now.”
In addition, Klos maintained that there would be no layoffs to dining staff due to the proposed changes, and that Tufts Dining expects to return to a normal dining situation and staffing level next year.
“I also want to state unequivocally that there were never any plans to lay off staff in Carmichael,” Klos said. “We expect to return to a more typical dining situation, with our typical dining staffing levels, next year.”
The Daily previously reported Carmichael’s proposed nutritional and modal transitions, at a time when Klos said that the rebranded Carmichael would operate more like Hodgdon Food-on-the-Run, with individually-priced items. Klos explained that since that announcement, Tufts Dining had been considering whether it would be better to transition to a retail format and ultimately chose to remain residential.
Tricia O’Brien, a service attendant and shop steward who works in Mugar Café, expressed that above all, the workers are happy for the students who will retain an additional sit-down dining space on campus.
“I think the workers are very happy for the students,” O’Brien said. “It was more or less [for] the students because they wouldn’t have a place to go eat, sit down and have a residential place [to eat]. I mean, one [buffet-style] place on campus isn’t enough.”
The Tufts Labor Coalition, which launched a “Save Carm” campaign earlier this month, also celebrated Klos’ announcement.
“The Tufts Labor Coalition just really appreciated how many people came together to support this campaign,” Emma Holland, an organizer with the TLC, said. “[The campaign] showed the solidarity between the workers and students, which is always a very powerful thing to show to the administration.”
According to Holland, a rising sophomore, TLC’s “Save Carm” campaign began with a worker speak-out event on April 30. The meeting was attended by over 100 students and community members, during which several dining, janitorial and facilities workers, in addition to a graduate student, discussed their experiences.
Holland explained that the campaign consisted of a petition on change.org, a student survey, a parent email blast and social media engagement.
She elaborated on the reasoning behind some of the campaign action items.
“[TLC had] a student survey, because Tufts likes to send out student surveys to rely on that data, so the Labor Coalition sent out our own survey so that we could get on top of the issue and present the data to the administration as needed,” Holland said. “We also have a [parent] email blast [because] we know in the past that the administration has responded to parent concerns a lot more than student concerns.”
Holland noted that TLC eventually collected 39 confirmed parents’ emails and 377 responses to the student survey, according to which 98.9% of the respondents wanted Carmichael to remain residential, while 92% supported establishing a separate dining location to accommodate those with specific allergies.
She added that TLC also organized delegations to try to meet with Klos twice in the Dining Services Administration Office on May 6 and 7. These delegations were unsuccessful in meeting with Klos, but Klos sent TLC an email announcing the decision on May 17.
O’Brien applauded TLC’s efforts and believed that parents’ and students’ engagement was critical to Tufts Dining reversing course.
“I’m glad the students got really involved in it, and I’m glad the parents got involved in it, and the administration has to hear and listen,” O’Brien said. “I think [the decision] had probably 70% to do with parents getting involved and the students getting involved. They paid a lot of money for a meal plan, and I think they spoke up.”