Upper Usdan and future of dining as seen by Student Union
Over the break, Upper Usdan received a "facelift," allowing students to customize their meals and order in person for the first time since before the pandemic.
As students returned to campus this week following a long winter break, they entered both Upper Usdan and the Hoot Market and were met with many visible changes. Upper Usdan has shifted away from ordering only through the Starship app, allowing students to enter Upper Usdan and order meals at many different stations. The Hoot Market has expanded to include multiple new shelves and coolers, as well as slushie machines.
The Justice met with Student Union Senator James Brosgol ’25 to speak about the recent developments to Brandeis Dining on Friday, January 20.
The Justice: What role did the Student Union have in the changes that have been made to Upper Usdan?
James Brosgol: We as Union representatives serve as conduits for student body feedback about dining, and one of the big things for us was the system that we had in place for Upper was not adequate … When Union representatives, specifically myself and our director of residential life, got to organize a committee that had the whole host of Harvest Table staff and Campus Card people, one of the big things that we talked about was that the issues with Upper were on the top of our list of priorities … regardless of what form it took, what [they] wanted to see was fewer obstacles to students ordering their food because that's one of the things that [they] felt shouldn’t be difficult …There's just so much more freedom when it comes to deciding when you want to order, definitely more choices of what you want to order, and all in all a lot more flexibility which I think is good, so I’m really excited.
The Justice: Do you think that the transition itself was a success, or were there challenges faced that have not been visible to students?
Brosgol: Harvest Table talked a lot, especially at the end of last semester, about wanting to use the break period as a time to tackle some of the bigger transitions so that they wouldn’t have to worry about doing something this big from week to week during a semester because as you can imagine, that would be a lot more difficult. I think that the transition has been pretty good. I think that it will continue to smoothen out, I don't think we've seen the best of what they have to offer yet, but I’d say all in all they have the infrastructure set up. I’ve been able to order in person and on Starship, and I feel like I've been reasonably successful doing it both ways. I believe that the transition has been very good, but I'm also excited to see what lies ahead.
The Justice: If there was something else about dining at Brandeis that you could change, what would that be?
Brosgol: If there was one thing that I could change, it would be the efficacy of the Starship app at large, and specifically the age-old issue of what I can order for a meal swipe. When I’ve spoken to them [Harvest Table], the claim has been that that's something they agree with but the coding and whatnot is an issue; however, you see that the Starship app in the past month has gotten a complete facelift … That remains the one thing that I am adamant can and should be done.
The Justice: Does the Student Union have any plans for dining going forward, is there anything else in the works that students can look forward to?
Brosgol: Student Union does remain committed to working on the elimination of meal periods — Harvest Table said that was a policy they agreed with but that there were contractual issues underlying it that prevented its immediate enactment, with a tentative target for change next school year. [There is] a lot more going on with…food that’s friendly for [Halal] diets, I know that there is a station that they have been working on in Usdan, but its consistency and quality is something that we've been having conversations about. There has also been talk of a Kosher cereal dispenser being brought to Sherman for specifically the Kosher end which is something that is a matter of more of the supply chain than anything else, but it’s expected to happen definitively this semester. [There are] whispers from the upper echelons of a soft serve ice cream machine making its way to Sherman.
The Justice: Is there anything else that you would like to tell the students reading?
Brosgol: Our job as Union officers, as people who work in Dining, is to be conduits for students first and foremost. [In] Sherman I would run into people I knew, classmates, sometimes people I didn’t, and they would just rattle off their thoughts, concerns, and criticisms to me, and that's exactly what you want to have happen. The more of that the better, we have feedback forms out there which I would encourage people to fill out, but also just if you see a Union person, specifically one who you know works in dining like myself, people are more than welcome to approach me with that kind of stuff.”
As students advance into the spring semester, they should keep an eye out for continued changes and advancements to dining services on campus. Feedback forms and in person comments are a great way to inform the Student Union of new ideas or issues that students have faced.