Captain & Tennille sang, Love, love will keep us together, but let’s be honest — even lovers need to eat. In fact, food is one of the few things in this world that consistently brings people together regardless of age, gender, race, religion and opinion.
This is never more evident than when reading the fliers that decorate campus — “The Jesse M. Unruth Institute of Politics presents, Students Talk Back: Populism, Politics and Anger (free lunch provided),” the “USC Catholic Center presents, The Second Annual Sports and Spirituality Presentation (La Taquiza dinner buffet included)” and the “USC Environment First presents, My Own Two Feet Documentary Screening (event includes delicious food from Organic to Go)” — you get the point.
These organizations clearly understand that in order to ensure a significant turnout it helps to dangle a carrot (or a Mexican food buffet) in front of student noses, proving that the lyrics, Food, food will keep us together, perhaps ring more true.
This hypothesis might explain why campus is such a ghost town on the weekends. With very few dining options on Saturdays and Sundays, it’s no surprise that many students who live within a 60 mile radius make a pilgrimage back to Mom and Dad’s refrigerator each week.
Before continuing any further, I must acknowledge that in the past four years the university has done a magnificent job providing new food options for its students. When I look back on the Figueroa Street I knew my freshman year — the street my friends and I dubbed the Las Vegas strip of fast food — it’s amazing to see restaurants like McKay’s and The Lab replacing the previously dilapidated Sizzler. Café 84 has also been revamped to offer a plethora of menus capable of satisfying even the most particular palate.
The issue is no longer variety but rather availability. The proliferation of new dining destinations is great, but the fact that most of them are closed on the weekends is a problem. Other than Trojan Grounds, every specialty cafe on campus shuts down after Friday, along with most of Café 84 and The Lot. Even during the week, the majority of these vendors close at 5 p.m., which begs the question, where are students supposed to eat dinner?
I believe a solution to this problem would be the addition of a campus restaurant, which could be built to replace The Lot when the Ronald Tutor Campus Center is complete. Rather than a dining hall or food court landscape, the eatery could be an actual sit-down diner with a aura similar to that of the 29th Street Café — but located on campus and open past 5 p.m. seven days a week.
Most of us left high school with the hope that cafeteria discrimination would be a thing of the past, but when walking around USC at lunchtime, with Greeks grabbing a bite at their sorority and fraternity houses, athletes eating at the Galen Center and freshman grubbing at Everybody’s Kitchen, it seems this mantra still holds true. A campus restaurant would draw people away from their respective niches, thus creating a more unified student body.
Further, a new restaurant would provide additional jobs for both students and members of the community while simultaneously bringing in more revenue. Obviously the eatery would have to be built before any thought of profit becomes tangible, and a great way to fund this project would be to reach out to the Trojan alumni base. The incentive could be that those who donate to the new restaurant will have their face or a character of themselves painted on the wall — courtesy of Roski Fine Arts students perhaps? — giving donors a visual testament of their Trojan pride that will last for years to come.
In nature, one can always find the most diverse group of animals at the watering hole, and the same theory applies to humans. A campus restaurant that stayed open on the weekends would unite our diverse student body, thus ultimately furthering USC’s promise to provide us with a Trojan Family that lasts not four years but for life.
Sara Escalante is a senior majoring in political science.