By: Commentator Staff  | 

From the Archives: Students Protest Cafeteria Changes

Editor’s Note: Yeshiva University has recently initiated a new meal plan which has aroused much discontent among the student body. The YU students of 30 years ago faced similar cafeteria-related problems. Their dissatisfaction culminated in a Student Council sanctioned boycott of the Furman Dining Hall which led to further discussion between student leaders and the administration. 

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Title: From the Archives (September 21, 1989; Volume 55 Issue 1) — Cafeteria Prices Spur Student Anger 

Author: Shukie Grossman 

Recent price adjustments at the Furman Dining Hall have evoked a voice of outrage from students allegedly victimized by fiscal impropriety. 

In response to increasing student interest in a formalized meal program, the current fall semester marks the operative commencement of the Yeshiva University Undergraduate Dining Club at the school’s Uptown and Midtown campuses. Along with the implementation of this venture, however, increased prices on many popular food items have stigmatized the inception of this long awaited program. 

According to Dean of Students Dr. Efrem Nulman, the system’s structure reflects “recommendations of last year’s Food Services Committee,” as well as the professional advice of a hired consultant. The program’s objectives, as outlined by a midsummer mailing, include to “assure parents that students will be eating well and regularly at the University’s dining facilities,” as well as “greater convenience, accessibility, and money management” for the students themselves. 

But much to the student’s dismay, less of a breakfast selection, smaller portions, longer checkout lines, and exorbitant prices, don’t correspond with these anticipated improvements. Senior Michael Paskas asserts, “Since I’m only here for one semester I didn’t think I’d finish my $600 card, but thanks to the new prices, I’ll have no difficulty.” 

Mr. Jeffrey Rosengarten, Director of Support Services and Personnel, maintains that the new prices in the cafeteria “reflect reality.” Mr. Rosengarten contends, “prices were calculated with a well accepted formula which attempts to capture the costs of food and labor,” thus, “for the first time appropriate prices are being charged.” Dr. Nulman explains, “our consultant expressed shocked over three price levels (existent in previous years). Consequently, adjustments reflect one price which can be modified in an appropriate way each year, not haphazardly.” 

Aside from general discontent over costs, many students insist that the structure of the present Dining Club doesn’t meet previous expectations. According to Director of Yeshiva University Food Services Mr. J. Lieberman, the system of “declining balance” currently utilized in the Cafeteria allows the students to “spend what they want to spend.” Lieberman emphasizes that “if you’re not there, you’re not losing out,” as meals are paid for individually rather than in bulk. Senior Josh Thomas responds, “the students didn’t say give us a credit card to eat in your restaurant!” 

Other factors such as an initial minimum deposit of six hundred dollars as well as no refunds on remaining balance have discouraged a majority of students from joining the plan. Mr. Rosengarten believes, however, that six hundred dollars is “a reasonable amount to part with on faith,” also accentuating that refunds aren’t offered in order to compensate the “major cost to the University to implement such a plan.”

With approximately four hundred members from both campuses, Mr. Rosengarten underscores the fact that “the Dining Club provides us with a guaranteed customer base, a key to improved food and service for all students.” “Ideally,” adds Rosengarten, “we would like to see a larger percentage of students participating in the Dining Club Plan.” 

Dr. Nulman reveals an additional plan in conjunction with Yeshiva College Student Council to open an on-campus late-hour convenience store which would complement the current offerings of the Division of Food Services. In reference to the current meal plan, he hopes that “students are patient with something they’ve wanted for a very long time.” Although patience is a virtue, many students wonder whether its limitations have been exceeded. 

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Title: From the Archives (November 21, 1989; Volume 55 Issue 4) — Caf Attack Causes Resignation

Author: Daniel Oshinsky 

A secretive anti-cafeteria organization helped renew student protests against the cafeteria last week, but also compelled Senior Joseph Hyman, Chairman of the Food Services Committee, to resign his post. 

Hyman resigned after a satirical flyer on cafeteria prices appeared on dormitory bulletin boards and stairwells Sunday evening, November 10. A computer printout, the flyer asks in bold letters, “Hey Jo, how much was that salad?” “Jo” then answers, “Only $9.95, but I also got a free one ounce drink!” The flyer ends, “Signed ROTEC, Rest Of The Eaters Club.”

ROTEC’s three organizers later approached the Commentator and agreed to be interviewed, but said they wished to keep their identities a secret for the time being. 

ROTEC produced three other sarcastic portrayals of the caf last week, surreptitiously distributing the flyers around campus during the early morning hours

In general, students showed support for ROTEC. They were especially amused by the flyer which joked, “Why did the student cross the road? To get his chicken at HaBodega!” 

But Hyman, who says he has been dealing with student anger over cafeteria prices since the beginning of the year called ROTEC’s first flyer “The last straw.” 

“Criticism to my face I can take, but having my name up on the wall, that’s not something I want to deal with. I wnt to deal with issues, not politics.” 

ROTEC claims its flyer was directed solely at the cafeteria, and that the name “Jo” was chosen arbitrarily. “Why would we waste time attacking a committee which is trying to do the same thing we are doing?” asked one ROTEC member. Another member said that before this incident he did not even know who Jo Hyman was. 

Although the ROTEC members apologized to Hyman, Hyman still termed thee incident extremely aggravating. “Maybe it was arbitrary,” he says, “but a lot of people didn’t look at it that way.” 

Explaining the goal of ROTEC, one member states, “We want to show the cafeteria that students are willing to take action, and we want to show the students that they can take action.” Members say they were particularly incensed when at a recent open forum on the cafeteria, administrators insisted there would be no lowering of cafeteria prices. 

According to ROTEC, the flyers were meant not just to humor students, but to prevent the cafeteria from becoming a dead issue. “The Commentator has come out with numerous articles. Then there was a meeting just to say there was a meeting,” explained one member. “But nothing’s been done.” 

ROTEC members hope to meet with the cafeteria after the Thanksgiving break. “We want to be shown figures which justify their prices,” they say, “and to see if something better can be done.” To demonstrate the students’ desire for change, ROTEC also plans to organize a one day boycott of the caf. 

Although they feel the Food Services Committee has been ineffectual, ROTEC members say they wish to work in conjunction with the committee. “We’re not trying to take over here,” said a member. It is still unclear who will be succeeding Hyman as Chairman of the committee. 

Hyman remains skeptical of ROTEC. “If these people want to work so hard with the Food Services Committee,” he complains, “and didn’t even know I was the chairman, then I can’t understand how they’re going to be effective.” 

“Bashing the cafeteria, and blowing things out of proportion only makes them lose credibility in the eyes of the administration,” he adds. 

Hyman also states that, barring outside donations to subsidize a meal plan, the cafeteria will never be able to lower its prices. Food prices are rising steadily, he says, while Glatt Kosher meat, Choluv Yisroel dairy products, and a full time Mashgiach mean added expenses. 

But ROTEC members say the present price structure is unacceptable to students. They also feel students are being hurt by the lack of a genuine meal plan. “Right now, all we have is a credit card,” said a member. ROTEC members believe, that faced with continued protests, the administration will realize that changes are necessary, especially if the cafeteria ever hopes to win back the student body. 

Title: From the Archives (November 21, 1989; Volume 55 Issue 4) — Student Dissonance 

Author: Dov J. Pinchot and The Commentator Governing Board of 1989-90 

Much to the student’s dismay, the status of the Food Services remains a neglected issue. Students are reacting to the cafeteria, even as the semester nears the Thanksgiving recess, with a fervor reminiscent of early September. 

The reason for these sentiments is clear-cut; Yeshiva College students have been abandoned in their quest for cafeteria changes not only by the University, but by Student Council. The “complaint session” of almost a month ago resulted in nothing more than 45 minutes of aimless exchange. 

Unlike the cafeteria prices, talk is cheap. Words must be transformed into action. 

Since the beginning of the semester, students have been more than eager to actualize their ideas into reality. Indeed, The Rest of the Eaters Club and increased business at HaBodega are salient indications of student opinion. 

So, where is the progress? The students are still speaking out. The Student Council must pay heed to these three month old complaints, especially if the University continues to ignore them. 

A suggestion for our student representatives: a meeting between the students and the Student Council in order to gear student body input and recommendations toward decisive action. 

The need to finalize this prolonged issue is imminent; its fate rests in the hands of a cohesive student body unit, leaders and laymen alike. 

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Title: From the Archives (December 20, 1989; Volume 55 Issue 6) — Boycott Breeds Negotiation 

Author: Mark I. Koffsky

A YCSC-sponsored boycott brought cafeteria service to a standstill on Thursday, December 7. Throughout the day, protesting students stationed at the cafeteria entrances appealed to would-be customers not to patronize the cafeteria. The boycott was honored by almost all members of the YU community, including MTA and WSSW students, leaving the Furman Dining Hall empty of customers for all three meals.

To prepare the student body, YCSC sold hundreds of “Boycott Survival Kits” containing deli sandwiches from Bernstein’s on the night before the boycott. Other activities to publicize the boycott consisted of placing large signs in the lobbies of the Residence Halls and writing “BOYCOTT” in red ink across the cafeteria’s publicity posters that are posted in the dormitories.

According to Barry Kaye, President of YCSC and chief organizer of the boycott, the boycott was implemented to call attention to student concerns about the cafeteria. Kaye outline the four major demands that are being sought: to lower the prices, to increase the portion size, to examine the Food Services’ books, and to ensure that a meal plan will not be mandatory next year.

Most students feel the boycott was a resounding success in that though it demonstrated concretely their dissatisfaction with the cafeteria, many were also impressed with the student unity displayed during the boycott.

Students hope that the success of the boycott will convince the Administration to make concessions on prices and portion sizes.

In an interview on the day after the boycott, Mr. Jeffrey Rosengarten, Director of Supporting Services, stated that he felt the boycott showed the inability of the student leaders to deal with the cafeteria issues in a professional manner. He contrasted the uptown boycott with the Food Services Committee at Stern College, which meets with Food Service administrators on a regular basis to discuss student concerns regarding the Midtown Center’s cafeteria.

According to SCW Junior Elizabeth Botterman, Co-Chair of the Stern College Food Services Committee, the committee has addressed many issues of concern to Stern students such as food quality, taste, and presentation. Ms. Botterman admits she is not entirely satisfied as there are issues still to be resolved, but it was felt that a concurrent boycott at Stern would hinder further progress of the Committee.

In response to the boycott, a Food Services committee meeting was held uptown on December 13. Persons attending the meeting included: Mr. Rosengarten, Food Service Directors Mr. Alan Lieberman and Mr. Allen Soloman, YCSC President Barry Kaye, Commentator Editor Dov Pinchot, ROTEC members Jay Lehman, Steven Dyckman, and Steven Felsenthal, former Food Services Chair Joe Hyman, and Eli Cohen, who served as chairman. Mr. Cohen opened the meeting with a statement expressing his desire to see the Committee become a strong force in resolving the cafeteria issues.

Mr. Rosengarten indicated at the onset of the meeting his unwillingness to allow a student review of the Food Services’ books. He did, however, express his desire to hear comments from the committee members about specific food items. The committee then considered the price and portion size of various food items: the salad bar, fish, chicken, bread, cereal, and french toast. Changes in cafeteria pricing that resulted from the committee’s discussion included: a slice of bread would be free with a lunch or dinner entree, the french toast portion would be increased from one slice to two with no increase in price, and a cereal and milk combination would be reduced from 85 to 75 cents.

The committee also addressed itself to other issues such as the possibility of a mandatory meal plan for Residence Hall students next year. Mr. Rosengarten stated that the possibility does exist since it may become an economic necessity for Food Services to be guaranteed a reasonable amount of business from the student body as many other universities do. He explained that the $600 required to join the YU meal plan is minimal compared to the costs of other university kosher meal plans. An example cited for comparison from information provided by Joe Hyman was Barnard College, where kosher meal plans range from $2,412 to $2,740 per year.

Before the meeting was adjourned, Mr. Rosengarten asked for assurance from the student leaders that any complaints about the cafeteria be addressed through the Food Services Committee and not through subversive signs and additional boycotts. The committee closed the meeting by resolving to meet again in the near future.

Photo Caption: The Commentator archives
Photo Credit: The Commentator