Eager Young Minds, Empty Stomachs

Students stand in another long line at the Home-Cooked Station at Scranton Commons

Bloomsburg University students are remaining silent no longer as the increasing number of incoming Freshmen is yielding an overcrowding effect at the most popular dining areas on campus, the Scranton Commons and the Husky Lounge.

 

“It’s Meatloaf Wednesday,” Alan Hummel rejoices as he whips the second strap of his backpack quickly onto his other shoulder and darts for one of the two women swiping student IDs at the entrance to the Scranton Commons. Meatloaf, of course, is one of the most sought after meals that the Commons has to offer among its eclectic assortment of food lines. Wide-eyed, Hummel watches his card swipe through the machine and before it is steadily secured in his hand, he has already made his first leaps rightward as he aims to be among the first students served the lightly red and delicious meatloaf prepared by the Home-Cooked station.  However, Hummel and friends found themselves spiking down their bags at an adjacent table for six after discovering that there was an obvious absence in the daily Commons selection.  There is no meatloaf. All trays prepared by the Commons’ Kitchen Staff have been consumed by 1 o-clock, a particular lunch hour not just for Hummel, but also for the blatantly overcrowded student population before him.

“How could it all be gone?” Hummel asks aloud to his surrounding friends.

It’s Monday, no meatloaf to worry about, as Hummel sits at his usual table just beyond the Home Cooked station. To his right are the drink dispensers where the shouting of a young man’s frustration is audible,

“This is the most packed I’ve seen a Monday in my four years here,” shouts the man, implying he’s a senior. “This is beyond packed!”

Indeed it is packed, even more so than the previous Wednesday where Hummel and his friends were denied their beloved meatloaf.

Located across the pathway that divides the Scranton Commons and the Kehr Union Building is the Husky Lounge where students, who may not want Commons cuisine or have been dismissed from class during Commons’ off-hours, go to eat. The Husky Lounge, although smaller and operating on a single-meal system versus the Commons’ large-buffet style, offers a variety of foods ranging from salad wraps to burgers among its three food stations. There is also a coffee and ice-cream line where many students go for a quick caffeine or sugar fix. Unfortunately, the Husky Lounge seems to suffer from the same, if not greater level of overcrowding. Lines often extend out the door on certain days during peak hours.

As Mark Schroeder, a Commons and Husky Lounge frequent-eater, walks through the front door of the Husky Lounge at noon on a Tuesday, he is greeted by the deafening roar of the students, so jammed together that the red-tile floor can no longer be seen. Behind him, students’ eyes become large, astonished at the crowd before them and before they even make it to the foyer, they have already turned around and exited to locate an alternative food source.

It’s now 1 p.m. as Sarah Fisher and Stephen Rossi sit at a circular table, waiting for Mark to come through the ID-swipe line where he will have finally paid for the food he has long awaited to eat. Fisher and Rossi, who arrived just minutes before Schroeder, were just early enough to beat the sudden burst of students that filed into the line behind them and led to Schroeder’s unfortunate, 40-minute wait for a meager chicken-wrap.

Today it’s Thursday at Husky Lounge, around the same time as Tuesday because classes let out at 12:15. Schroeder hurries towards the same line he conquered two days ago but surprisingly he turns towards the ID-swipe register and purchases one of the table’s Reeses’ Giant Sugar Cookies.  Naturally his purchase is not the appropriate health-substitute for a chicken wrap but he continues and hurriedly sits down at the table occupied by Fisher and Rossi.

“This is ridiculous,” he says in total exasperation and sarcastically he whispers, “at least I’ve got my cookie.

Alan Hummel and Mark Schroeder are just a tiny representative sample of a student population that is being subject to a form of indirect starvation. At the Commons, lines are so long that many food trays are empty by the time an individual gets to the front. At the Husky Lounge, lines are long too and wait-time may exceed a half-hour at some stations.  The overcrowding at Bloomsburg’s dining halls can be directly related to the overwhelming number of admitted freshmen this semester. As admissions have reached record numbers, students are turned away after classes by the lines they see before even making it through the door. A hungry student population seeking to nourish itself after the academic grind is not sufficiently provided the food they need to perform to its full potential in the classroom.

There is another dining area on campus called Monty’s, but it is all the way on upper campus and is already heavily trafficked by those living in upper campus housing units. Furthermore, having a mass of students herding onto the shuttle buses headed for upper campus under the assumption that lines at Monty’s will be shorter will only spread the overcrowding crisis to other areas of the Bloomsburg campus. These issues beg the question of why there has not been consideration for another dining establishment on lower campus to help alleviate some of the student-population issues plaguing Bloomsburg’s starving pupils.

It’s Friday, the final post-class Commons run of the week for Alan Hummel. He hops into a line, already suffering in length, for a panini and makes a careful analysis of the cause. In previous years, the panini-grill operator would simply turn up the heat and grill for about ten seconds. This year, a new operator named Claudia is grilling the paninis for up to 2 minutes. Alan returns to his table and among his friends and discusses the accuracy of his theory. He explains that every detail, even proposals about adequate grill-time for paninis, is critical to discovering what is causing the overcrowding at Bloomsburg’s most popular dining halls. As Hummel and his troupe exit the Commons, Bloomsburg’s President Soltz follows close behind.

“I wonder if someone will recognize we need a change,” Hummel explains, without recognizing the significance of the man behind him. “When is Bloomsburg going to realize it’s not making provisions for all the new students each semester?”

As he exits the Commons, President Soltz does not seem to hear Alan. But as he eats the same foods at the same times as the students he controls, Bloomsburg students can only wonder how long it will be before the president eventually understands.

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