Setting the table

University’s young Saturday dinner program has time to grow

By Maroon Editorial Board

This quarter, UChicago Dining will be serving dinner on three Saturday nights under a program called the “Saturday Night Social Club.” Each of these Saturdays will serve a maximum of 200 students by reservations made on a first-come, first-served basis.  Over the past few years, student groups such as the Socioeconomic Diversity Alliance (SDA) have pointed out the burden that paying out-of-pocket for Saturday night dinners can place on some students. Last year, three Student Government members distributed a survey conducted about Saturday night dining in which 70 percent of more than 340 respondents said that the cost of Saturday night dining was or sometimes was a major concern for them. Dining’s new Social Club program is a heartening indication that the University is listening to students and willing to consider their proposals.

The program could stand to be built out to specifically support students from low-income backgrounds. Currently, the program does not offer any kind of priority to the students that stand to benefit the most from the effectively free Saturday dinners. The University could easily adjust the program by asking students to self-report if they are a low-income student or why they want to attend the Saturday Night Social Club, and giving priority in registration to those students. Providing the students the option to report or not report their own socioeconomic background is worth the risk that students could possibly misrepresent their background.

Kinks in the program, however, are understandable considering that the Saturday Night Social Club program is only a pilot. The University should take this pilot as an opportunity to gauge interest in expanding Saturday night dining options through on-campus dining. Depending on student response, we encourage the University to either expand the program with a focus on low-income students or explore other options to aid those students in paying for Saturday night dinners, such as allocating those students more Maroon Dollars or expanding the meal exchange program. It is logical that the University would seek more information before committing to the reallocation of funds necessary to keep dining halls running. In light of this, students should not hesitate to send their feedback regarding this new program to Dining.

—The Maroon Editorial Board