Identifying the drivers of Cafeteria population dynamics
Since my last article about the cafeteria, major changes have occurred in the Marketplace both gastronomically and socially. The new changes to the food offerings, food positionings, and Cafeteria policies enacted by the Aramark Corporation have surely impacted the student body but are minuscule in comparison to the cafeteria’s recent social shifts. This article will discuss the latest in cafeteria population dynamics, specifically the urban blight or decay of the Northern Annex, the overpopulation of the cafeteria, and what these changes mean for the future. In closing, a forward look will be taken to predict what sort of paradigm shifts in the field of sociology may occur with the renovation of the McGinley Student Union.
For the less cultured, a reminder of what the Northern Annex is will be necessary. Bear with me, the Northern Annex is the “overflow” section of Fordham’s cafeteria located to the right of the dish return track.
Originally, The Northern Annex was a closed population used solely for the purpose of feeding Aramark and Fordham staff. Cafeteria faculty could be seen enjoying their lunch break, Public Safety officers would discuss their latest deployments, and members of would converse about plans for the university’s renovation. But during a time of deregulation in the Marketplace, a few semesters ago, the Annex was opened up to the general student population. In the beginning of this new stage, the Northern Annex quickly became populated by a small number of students seeking refuge from the often-overpopulated main dining area. Many of these migrants came to the Northern Annex because they were eating alone and did not want to be humiliated and others (generally older students with already well-established relationships) wanted a quiet place to hold a quality conversation. For these reasons the North Annex earned its nickname, “the anti-social section,” though this term has a derogatory connotation and should no longer be used. All to soon however, this haven, was flooded with the very populations the first generation of migrants were fleeing from. Attracted by its cleanliness, beautiful natural lighting, more comfortable chairs, and peaceful atmosphere, more students moved in. This unfortunately, has led to the urban decay of the Northern Annex. The once uniquely spotless tables are now speckled in food remains, and the rejuvenating calm has now been replaced by the noise of rowdy outsiders.
That being said it must be noted that the reason for the overpopulation of the Annex is not only due to internal migration from the main dining chamber, but also from temporary and cyclical immigration and population displacement as other dining options have become less available and affordable. In the beginning of the semester the POD, which contains Boar’s Head, had limited hours and was unexpectedly closed a few times as it underwent maintenance repairs. Further, Ram Express in the Keating basement, was shut down by the Department of Health (not for sanitary reasons, mind.) Moreover, the cafeteria is experiencing higher volumes of students as their Christmas funds that were used to finance off-campus dining have now been depleted. All of these forces combined, have pushed more students into the cafeteria and with the primary dining chamber bulging, many were forced to immigrate to the Northern Annex.
All of the forces discussed in the preceding paragraph are temporary: POD and Boar’s Head are now both operating at normal capacity, Ram Express is actively being repaired, and after the looming Spring Break students will be replenished with cash for off-campus dining. However, the ramifications of these temporary forces may be more permanent. Many of the original Annex settlers fear that being so impressed by what the North has to offer, the new migrants and immigrants simply won’t want to return to their dining option of origin despite their reopening. Nativist sentiments have yet to grow out of control, though it is possible that some of the original Annex settlers will call for secession from the Fordham Campus Dining Union (FCDU). These Annexit supporters argue that it is simply too easy for non-Annex students to migrate and immigrate into the Northern Annex. One Annexiteer says, “The Fordham issued student ID cards with their meal plans are essentially green cards allowing any student to enter any dining facility when (their) cultures are clearly different. How can we trust that these newcomers will respect and uphold the Northern Annex’s distinct culture and social norms?” Most however, do not wish to leave the Fordham Campus Dining Union, “Who cares? It’s the Caf,” quips one pragmatic student.
Despite these paradigm shifts and transitional populations, the urban decay and overpopulation of the Marketplace, specifically of the North Annex, will all be uprooted and rendered nearly irrelevant once the new McGinley Center is completed and opened for student use. At this time, I will graduate and pass the torch of Fordham sociology onto the next scientist to uncover these changes.