The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

‘Tough choices’ with dining renovations leave some students disappointed

When students returned to campus this fall, they found much had changed in the most popular dining venue
Erika Kengni
Students chat in Café 77, which underwent remodeling last winter term.

After being closed for renovations for six months, Café 77 and The Marketplace re-opened this semester with changes to interior design, food offerings, swipe functions and more. While the administration had reasons for the changes, some students had reservations.

When returning students entered Café 77, commonly referred to as “Coop,” they were met with multiple changes. The piano, ping-pong table, sofas and comfortable chairs had been replaced by sleek modern dining furniture and low couches.

It was like the space students knew had been replaced by an entirely different one, Carly Cunningham, ’24, said.

“The seating area has declined in quality. It’s kind of loud and echoey and kind of sterile, while it used to be more homey and comfortable and inviting,” she said.

For Cunningham, Café 77 used to be the social hub for the school. Now, the place once called the “Commons Living Room” feels less inviting.

The dining venues in Elrod Commons had been closed since the 2023 winter semester for renovations. Despite the concept sketches for the new and improved facilities that were shared campus-wide, many students were frustrated by the changes.

“I feel like if they shut it down from last February to now, I expected more coming back,”
Lucy Donahue, ’24, said.

But K.C. Schaefer, ’04, executive director of auxiliary services, said the changes were necessary to reduce congestion.

When Elrod Commons, and by extension the dining services in that building, opened in 2003, there were significantly less students on meal plans than there are today, Schaefer said.

“The number of transactions that we do now is about 10 times what it was when they first opened,” he said.“There [were] tough choices between having enough room for people to sit
down and eat food versus having things like a piano and a ping-pong table.”

The conflict that arose when planning out the new Café 77 was between its stated function of serving food to students and its use as a place to hang out and relax with friends.

However, Schaefer noted that the booth seating that was planned for Café 77 has not arrived yet, and that the booths might help students enjoy a living room-like space again.

“I think that the university should have consulted students and asked what we wanted. I feel like this came out of left field and it doesn’t seem that they understood what Coop [Café 77] meant to us,” Donahue said.

Students have also noticed a change in swiping policy. First-years can no longer swipe multiple times at once in order to help their upperclassmen friends who had fewer meal swipes.

However, Schaefer said the policy has always existed, but never been enforced.

“Your meal plan is for you alone,” Schaefer said.

Cooper Lazo, ’24, said that because first-years have 24 swipes per week, them swiping for upperclassmen is not a big deal. It provides an opportunity to make friends, especially when upperclassmen run out of swipes for the week.

Lazo added that even amongst upper-classmen, the removal of the ability to swipe for one another makes grabbing meals on campus more difficult.

Now that the first phase of renovations has concluded, the second phase of construction will expand indoor seating in The Marketplace and offer new seating options outside Commons, said Jim Butler, head of dining services.

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