By Daniel C. Houston
Administrators are considering closing one of the campus dining halls after the new East Village Residential Community dining hall opens in August 2013, a Baylor dean told a group of students Monday.
Dr. Jeff Doyle, dean for student learning and engagement, displayed detailed plans for the living and dining areas of the new facilities at a town hall forum organized by student government, also responding to questions about how East Village will fit in with the university’s master plan.
“Some folks are saying, fiscally, it’s going to be costly to run five residential dining halls,” Doyle said. “The dining folks will say we can do it for much cheaper and provide better food if you let us consolidate, so there’s some discussion about the possibility of having to close down a dining hall.”
Although no decision has been reached about whether to close a dining hall or which one could be targeted, Doyle confirmed he has been a part of several meetings in which closing a dining hall was weighed as a future option.
“I don’t think one is emerging as the one to shut down because we’re not even sure if we’re going to have to shut one down,” Doyle said. “The hope is to try to keep them all open, but I don’t want to do that if it causes you guys to have to pay a lot more for food.”
When asked which dining halls would be likely objects of potential closures, Doyle said Penland Food Court serves a large number of people and is a more likely candidate for renovation than closure, while closing the Brooks Residential College Great Hall would be undesirable considering how central it is to the Brooks community.
Memorial Dining Hall and Collins Cafe are both being given a serious look, Doyle said, although he added there would be good reasons against closing either one, as well.
Houston junior Tyler Tribble, the student who asked about the possibility of dining hall closures, told the Lariat after the forum he thought it might be necessary to close a facility to cut down on total costs, and had his own ideas for which one should be on the chopping block.
“In my personal opinion, I would think Collins [would be the best to close] unless it has a substantial difference in production cost,” Tribble said. “[But] if Memorial is twice as expensive as Collins, then don’t shut down Collins. I can tell that everyone’s going to want to go to East Village, the new dining hall. I can see the demand [for other dining halls] decreasing steadily unless they compensate.”
In addition to explaining the impact the East Village dining hall could have on campus facilities, Doyle showed attendees artistic renderings featuring lobbies, rooms, and study and social areas residents will be able to utilize.
He also said the university will seek more student feedback as administrators make final decisions about specific features of the residential facilities like style of furniture and information-technology functionality.
Doyle said he does not know exactly when these additional student-feedback sessions will take place.
Student body president Zach Rogers, Houston senior whose cabinet helped organize the event, said he thought it went well and was particularly pleased with the quality of questions students asked.
“I thought some of the students gave some very good input on what they liked or didn’t like about East Village and some really good questions that were thought-provoking for the panelists on stage,” Rogers said. “They asked very accurate and very point-driven questions, and I say that because I feel like Dean Doyle was able to answer those questions to the best of his abilities.”