As our ranks are joined by over 1,500 new students, the line for Leo’s is sure to extend well past the GUTS bus stop and toward the new Multi-Sport Facility. Of course, this year the line will be even longer, as the university has crushed the flagship of its dining options: Darnall Dining Hall.
Darnall has been a magical part of my experience here at Georgetown, from the first fearful lunch as a freshman, terrified to be entering the “upperclassman cafeteria,” to the last dinner EVER at Darnall, celebrated with a group of close friends last spring. The staff members were friendlier, the smiles were brighter and the whipped cream was free-flowing.
They’ve tried to change Darnall before, but never so drastically. After my freshman year, they removed the taco bar that adorned the northern end of the seating room, and the backlash was certainly high. By stylishly adding neon lights and other `90s touches, however, Darnall stopped being just a cafeteria and became a tribute to “Saved by the Bell’s” The ax.
For three glorious years, my lunchtimes were full of delicious grilled cheeses, personalized pizzas, and smooth easy listening tunes over Darnall’s excellent public address system.
And now it’s over.
The big rumor is that soon a T.G.I. Friday’s or some other franchise will enter the lonely hall beneath all those freshmen (who now must battle the GUTS buses walking down the hill to Leo’s). My immediate reaction is to doubt the accuracy of this rumor, especially since nobody seems able to substantiate it. However, my eventual conclusion is more resolved and downtrodden:
I don’t want a Friday’s. I don’t want an Applebee’s. And I really, really, really don’t want a Chili’s (which somehow always makes me sick). I want Darnall back, but since that doesn’t seem to be an option, I want something original in the space. For years I’ve heard of a “student pub” or restaurant in the New South space, but Riverside Lounge seems years away from becoming anything other than the open space it now is. Darnall presents the campus with the unique (and until recently unexpected) opportunity to try something new.
At Georgetown we pride ourselves on our student ownership, yet a franchise American restaurant is the exact opposite of this. I am the Chief Operating Officer of The Corp, and we serve more food to the student body than anybody on campus aside from Marriott. We try to offer a selection of healthy and student-friendly food alternatives, a category that certainly includes greasy Friday’s potato skins.
Somewhere along the line, I’m guessing that members of the Student Association will continue to meet with members of the university administration to discuss the future of the Darnall space. I hope that when they do, they seek input from the student body, because I know that I’m not alone on this.
To return to the New South space, its committee featured representatives not only from GUSA, but also from the Corp and other student-owned organizations. It showed a concerted effort by the university to consider a wide sample of the student body when making decisions that would affect it. The Darnall decision lacks this student involvement.
So come knocking. The Corp is certainly interested in the space, but I know we’re not alone. There are plenty of independent vendors that would love the opportunity to serve the Georgetown community. And they would do it with a touch of class.
Georgetown is a unique environment, and to see the “Jack Daniel’s Grill” banners right next to a GUASFCU sign-up drive would represent a further cheapening of our student space. John Thompson taught us that we, the individuals, are Georgetown. I can think of nothing that is less Georgetown than a tacky franchise restaurant inside a freshman dorm.
Adam Giblin is a senior in the School of Foreign Service and the chief operating officer of The Corp. He is also an at-large member of THE HOYA’s Board of Directors.