To accommodate kitchen repairs, grab-and-go hot food in the College Center is no longer available for the fall semester. The Office of the Dean of the College announced these changes in an email to the student body on Aug. 17.
In a written statement, Associate Dean of the College Dennis Macheska wrote “The repairs [to the Retreat and Express kitchen] will replace the existing ductwork for the cooking exhaust system; a new hood system; and all new cooking equipment for the staff. Addressing the issue with the exhaust system speaks to our commitment to the safety of our employees and campus community.”
Over the summer, an engineer identified that the exhaust system did not meet the standard fire ratings according to Dean Macheska. Management was unaware that the kitchen would need to be shut down due to the scope of the project until a week prior to Aug. 17. The kitchen is expected to reopen in January and resume serving hot food.
The Vassar Student Association’s (VSA) new dining option “Munchie Mondays” attempts to provide additional hot lunch options throughout the week. Munchie Monday, an expansion of Tasty Tuesday, will invite three new local food vendors to campus in two weeks. Meals are available for retail purchase or via Arlington bucks.
“We’re trying our best to keep things fun,” Director of Services Maxwell Bergman ’25 said. “You can look at [these additional options] as a new change and see how it works, so maybe in the future we keep it this way.”
Another VSA-initiated change is the adaptation of Express into a pop-up market, a measure first introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 90 percent of 181 student respondents to the VSA’s Annual Comprehensive Survey supported the proposal, according to the VSA. “Ultimately, we want the Express Market to be successful and would welcome suggestions on products to ensure students have access to the items most desired,” Macheska said. “As long as the Express Market remains popular and relevant to students, we anticipate this being a permanent change.”
Elizabeth Leonard ’25 expressed concerns over dining affordability of existing options. Although Leonard appreciates the new selection, she does not believe it is an alternative to the previous dining plan, which did include grab-and-go hot food.“I don’t want to spend money,” Leonard said. “The value of Retreat to me was that it’s a swipe and so it’s included in the meal plan. I am not going to choose an option that costs money for lunch every day because that really adds up.”
The reduction of grab-and-go dining options has led to a 12 percent increase in traffic at Gordon Commons. Lines stretch out the door during peak dining hours.“I think the renovation of Retreat, while helpful in the long-term, has made it a really frustrating dining experience so far this semester,” Annie Brewer ’25 said. “I have been in countless lines going out the door to try to swipe my card just to enter. Once inside I’m met again with long lines for stations.”
Lunch accessibility is also a concern raised due to the limited options and reduced hours of Retreat. Weekend hours have been eliminated and weekday hours were reduced from 6 p.m. to 4 p.m. “I relied on Retreat for lunch in between classes where I only have 15 minutes, and now, I end up skipping lunch,” Elizabeth Leonard ’25 said. “My only option is the Deece [Gordon Commons] and it’s not somewhere I can go in the middle of the day when I have a busy schedule.”
Other changes students were not notified of include the removal of sushi and poke bowls from Retreat due to high cost and the shift away from compostable paper cups from Gordon Commons. “I don’t know why they did it, the only thing I can think of is saving money,” Leonard said. “I don’t think there’s a lot of transparency at Vassar. We rarely get reasons for changes, we get announcements. I’m kind of in the dark on what the reasons behind this are.” The Miscellany News will continue to report on this developing story.