By Reggie Goudeau
By this point in my Oberlin career, my partner and I have long given up on getting consistent meals from this school. We still use most of our swipes whenever we remember, but we usually blow them at Decafe for chips and various types of pop. I remember a time during my first year when 75% of my meals came from the Rathskeller, Decafe, Stevie, and, occasionally, Umami. I’m shocked I managed to survive, but after slowly acquiring more responsibilities and a little self-respect, I realized I needed better. That’s why I now have a partner who cooks very well, and I have several jobs to afford takeout as needed (mostly to cover my chicken quesadillas).
The rest of this article will mostly be me giving “highlights” about Makayla, and I’s dining experiences at Oberlin. If I listed each time we received food that wasn’t up to par for an institution with an $80,000 price tag, this article would take up the whole section. Before I begin the new content, I’d like to briefly get readers up to speed on what happened last in this saga. In the final piece I wrote for The Oberlin Review, I detailed how Oberlin tried and failed to feed Makayla and me while we were trapped in Lord-Saunders with COVID over Winter Break. Makayla and I cooked 80-85% of our meals during that time because what AVI sent us was usually cold, unseasoned, and generally disgusting. On the day of Christmas, Makayla received a salad without dressing, eggs, and lukewarm tater tots for breakfast at 11:30 a.m. Lunch that day was somehow worse, with them receiving only a lukewarm salad at 3:30 p.m. The school also delivered 3-4 days' worth of food to my door, despite many emails, texts, and the contact tracing form indicating that I was staying with my partner after discovering that we were both infected. While the food quality gradually improved with each passing day, improving from a 2/10 to a 4/10 is still pretty pathetic.
Sadly, even the current semester retains some of these same issues while introducing some “fun and quirky” new ones. First, the lines at the Rathskeller are still horrendous despite the new electronic swipe system that lets students order their own stuff. With no exaggeration, getting food from there takes up to 30 minutes during lunch and dinner. Even when they’re less busy, it takes at least eight to ten minutes (assuming you don’t have an order with an allergen). Occasionally, this terminal will run while someone else operates the main counter, and you can actually get some damn food. Sadly, most of the time, only this terminal is working, and ordering food takes the same amount of time as ever, making me question why Oberlin bothered in the first place.
The indirect promotion of EDs (eating disorders) at this place has also somehow gotten worse. Even in previous years, one could use a meal swipe at Biggs to get a large smoothie or a small smoothie and chips. A large drink at Azariah’s is also worth a swipe, which is simply not the healthiest for a campus where everyone is constantly on the go without time to sit down for a meal. Decafe has recently adopted a similar business model by allowing students to flex any singular non-board meal item for a swipe. Candy, drinks, and many other treats that should not substitute meals for students are easily accessible thanks to this policy. I only hope Oberlin recognizes how dangerous this situation can get without more supervision soon because otherwise, its students vulnerable to this temptation will suffer.
The most disappointing part of AVI is its frequent lack of accessible gluten-free options. My partner Makayla has celiac and needs to avoid eating gluten so they can remain alive and healthy. Sadly, most on-campus locations are not the most friendly to someone with that and diabetes simultaneously. Clarity has accessible options, but many times the food there contains too many carbohydrates or is simply sub-par. Umami has little to no gluten-free food, and Decafe is mostly a sea of snacks and drinks. A-House is frequently the least disappointing option, but most of their dishes are not gluten-free or have the carbohydrate issue once again. Stevie rarely has gluten-free meals, and what they have is often questionable, such as their shrimp alfredo nachos with salsa verde. Even simple dishes are mediocre here, such as how this place has trouble making potatoes and often overcooks or undercooks them. With these options being the standard, why would I, Makayla, or anyone else bother using more than one or two swipes on an actual meal per day?