Opinion: Sporting a New Look, Pandemic-Induced Changes Remain A Mixed Bag at Goudy Commons
A series of photos taken inside the newly renovated Goudy Commons. Photos by Anushka Srivastav.
As a senior who was excited for a full return to in-person campus life, Goudy Commons was one thing I did not expect to feel a fond nostalgia for. On my first Tuesday back on campus, I eagerly entered the busy line outside the dining hall for my favorite routine aspect of Goudy, the “Cocina Latina” at the “Authentic” station. Yet when I reached the front of my line to swipe in, a surprising sense of sadness washed over me as I took in Goudy’s newly renovated interior.
While the clean, white countertops felt familiar, their base no longer carried their inviting brown wooden sheen that formerly reminded me of my grandmother’s kitchen, and instead were replaced by a stark, industrial veneer. Likewise, the light-up signs above each station to label its cuisine that used to shine a warm autumn brown were now a cold white light reminiscent of those one could find glaring down in a modern office building. Another unfortunate design choice is the paint job given to the kitchen entrance— a sleek black that feels more appropriate for a bank than a lively dining hall, in contrast to their previous homely brick red. As a whole, the futuristic new Goudy interior felt depressing, stripped of its past life and joy for a look of corporate sterilization, a look that clashes heavily with the grand lodge-like feel of the dining area, generating aesthetic whiplash. However, aesthetics are subjective, and this opinion is not universally held by students: Lauren Redcay (‘22) expressed satisfaction with Goudy’s interior renovation, saying that it “looks really clean and shiny” in comparison to the old design and expressing that the “different layout, labels, and displays” are visually appealing.
A side by side comparison of the old Goudy center food counter (left) and the newly renovated space (right). Photos by Anushka Srivastav.
To my relief, the “authentic” Mexican food station was still in operation, although with
considerably fewer options than in 2018 or 2019. I was well aware that impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic would manifest themselves in our dining hall, but was still disappointed in the limited options available at each station. Generally, all stations now limit entree options to one containing animal-based protein and another for vegans or vegetarians. This isn’t entirely seen as a negative change, with students such as Leanne Harp (‘23) arguing that while there are fewer options, “they’re keeping it varied” and refining entree selections. Harp expressed that this year, “I haven’t had a day where I go into Goudy, look at their options and say to myself: I can’t eat any of this,” whereas in previous years she would often skip meals at Goudy often due to unappealing choices or allergies to the foods being offered. With the entrees offered this year, Harp feels as if she’s “taking more risks” with what she eats and that she is “usually pleasantly surprised” with the quality of what is being served.
As I was handed my plate of chorizo, peppers, rice, and beans, I turned towards the dininghall’s main eating area, and was surprised by the absence of a check-out line. The change was understandable, with all food being served functionally as takeout there was no need to congregate in two lines that could build up and sprawl throughout the cafeteria. Still, I mourned the loss of these lines that often served as an opportunity to engage with passersby, and particularly the cheerful small talk made with Goudy’s wonderful staff as they ran up and calculated the price of one’s meal.
That said, one clear positive outcome of Goudy’s COVID-19 changes is that the day’s other meals besides dinner are now also technically “all you care to eat.” This swipe system also makes meals far more affordable for students, as previously for lunch and breakfast, each individual item used to cost a base price that was tallied up for a total at the register. Now, students pay a uniform, more affordable base price for all meals. Another clearly positive pandemic outcome for students like Redcay who “don’t enjoy eating inside Goudy” is the option of takeout for every meal, allowing students to enjoy breakfast, dinner or lunch outdoors by the Mill Stream or anywhere else on campus one would choose to eat.
Yet, students believe the takeout system could be more streamlined, specifically by shifting away from only giving students food on what Redcay describes as “flimsy” paper plates. She went on to explain that students “can only carry one plate” if they want a drink as well, and that for her, one plate is “really not that much food, especially if I don’t end up liking what I get,” which leaves her “always feeling a little hungry” due to inability to control portion sizes in the dining hall.
Another disheartening omission I noticed as I entered the dining hall for the first time this semester was the absence of trays. Redcay agrees that trays should be made available so students can carry larger portions at once, noting that she “doesn’t understand why” they were removed “if they can be washed and sanitized” to address COVID-19 concerns. Harp, on the other hand, thinks that the absence of trays and non-disposable dishware have helped improve the dining hall experience, as they “make you more responsible for your own stuff” such that less students are leaving unnecessary messes on tables to be cleaned up by Goudy staff. Goudy’s generation of environmental waste is not an isolated concern amongst students— Redcay also mentioned that “it’s a waste to keep using plasticware and paper plates,” believing that Goudy’s methods of food delivery should “include the option of using real plates” and “ increase availability of to-go containers” for takeout meals so students can bring more food than all that can fit on one paper plate out of the dining hall with them.
At the end of the day, a dining hall should be chiefly evaluated by what it serves— the food.
To my surprise, every meal I have had at Goudy this semester so far has been quite satisfying. Whether it be rich potato gnocchi with red sauce and Italian sausage on a Sunday night dinner or a savory char-siu pork bowl for Thursday lunch, the food itself is the tastiest it has been throughout my nearly four years at Willamette. In comparison to the previous two years, Harp said that the dining hall has “reached a comfortable medium” between Goudy’s pandemic operations and how it functioned pre-pandemic, and that “Goudy has definitely changed for the better” from its bumpy first pandemic shifts in operation. Still, several changes were agreed upon that Goudy could implement to improve the dining experience for all its patrons: limiting unneeded paper/plastic waste, obtaining more trash cans to prevent student food from ending up in recycling, and a more intuitive food carry-out system that makes greater use of to-go containers or trays to allow larger portion sizes.
Goudy staff were reached out for consultation and interview for this article but could not be reached for comment.