USC’s ascent over the last couple decades, especially since the inauguration of President C.L. Max Nikias in 2010, has been nothing short of impressive.
In response to USC’s rise in the academic rankings, ever-growing endowment and transformation into a global campus, the university has accelerated its transition into a fully residential campus.
One of the steps being taken toward this goal is converting Café 84, formerly a food court for all students, into a new dining hall to serve the freshmen living in Fluor and Webb towers. But converting favorite spots on campus into mostly freshman areas and displacing upperclassmen has not been as welcome among students as USC’s rise in the academic rankings has.
Through the Master Plan, the administration has taken various steps toward building a “safe, attractive, sustainable, residential campus” and to “accommodate … the university’s strategic, academic, and enrollment goals.” The transformation of Café 84 is one of the steps that have been completed for this year’s new freshmen.
Though these new freshmen — and those to come in later years -— deserve the best, this step is inconvenient for many students and does not take into consideration what is being denied to upperclassmen.
Café 84’s switch will go beyond just affecting freshmen. Gone are the days when students could go grab their favorite smoothie at Jamba Juice after a workout at the Lyon Center or get a Wok Bar bowl between classes.
Now, some of the best places for all students to go are being replaced by another dining hall that will only be frequented by freshmen. Do we really need another EVK?
Before this transformation took place, upperclassmen and freshmen alike could easily grab a pasta bowl from Pasta Presto and a smoothie from Jamba Juice for $10 or less. In order for students without a meal plan to get a meal from another dining hall, however, they would have to pay at least $11. Despite the recent improvements made at EVK, most students will be less than thrilled with paying this amount for the average dining hall meal, especially if they are in a hurry and just need to grab food quickly.
Instead of taking a one-size-fits-all type of approach to on-campus dining, USC should ensure that there are plenty of places to go for students with and without meal plans. Not only would more venues that follow the former layout of Café 84 make life easier for students who frequently eat on campus, it would also foster more mixing of the student body as opposed to cordoning freshmen off from the rest of campus.
It is important for the administration to remember the upperclassmen in their future plans instead of developing a freshman experience at the expense of other students. Plans such as the conversion of Café 84 effectively leave these students high and dry.
With the goal of being regarded as a world-class elite institution, the administration is working to advance some measures that do not take into consideration the interests of all students equally. Though new food options for all students will move into the area via the Master Plan, they are not here yet. During this transition phase, upperclassmen must be remembered.
The changes will be good for USC freshmen, but that does not mean that all aspects of the plan will be good for students. The change at Café 84 is a case in point. Ensuring an exceptional student experience for all students at every stage in their academic careers, not just when they are freshmen, must always be a priority.
Sarah Cueva is a junior majoring in Middle East studies and religion.