The Georgetown University Student Association (GUSA) Senate unanimously passed a resolution demanding longer dining hall hours for all undergraduate students at a Nov. 21 meeting.
The resolution calls for the university to extend operating hours for the lower level of the Leo J. O’Donovan Dining Hall until 10 p.m., hire more employees, provide overtime pay and establish a committee on student dining. The lower level of Leo’s serves as the main dining hall for the entire student population and currently operates from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays.
Extending operating hours would better accommodate the needs of students who are employed, have athletic or extracurricular commitments or have irregular academic schedules, according to GUSA Senator John Sussek (COL ’24), who introduced the resolution.
“Getting a meal in should not be a challenge, and you should not have to change your schedule around the dining hall’s hours,” Sussek said in an interview with The Hoya. “In fact, the dining hall should be able, at a university of this caliber, to change its schedule to suit our hours.”
Extending dining hall hours would also help reduce the burden on students’ finances and help address food insecurity on campus, according to GUSA Senate Vice Speaker Rowlie Flores (COL ’22), who co-sponsored the resolution.
“Some students do have 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. classes, and by the time they get out of class, Leo’s is closed,” Flores said in an interview with The Hoya. “This year, we don’t have a lot of locations that accept Flex dollars, and having to spend your own money at Wisey’s or Uber Eats is an additional cost that students have to bear.”
Currently 15 locations on Georgetown’s main campus accept Flex dollars.
Students must have access to food in order to prioritize their health while on campus, according to Abigail Orbe (COL ’23), president of Students Advancing Food Equity (SAFE), a student-run club that works to ensure that all Georgetown students have healthy and affordable food.
“Food is more than a biological need,” Orbe wrote in a message to The Hoya. “It deeply affects social and emotional health. All students should be able to select the food they need, in the quantity and quality they need, at the time in which they need it.”
The university chooses the current hours of operation at dining locations based on when the services are most demanded, according to a university spokesperson.
“We welcome community feedback about on-campus dining,” the university spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya. “The hours of on-campus dining locations are selected to best meet the needs of the campus community based on utilization rates. We regularly review information to ensure we meet the needs of the on-campus community.”
The resolution comes after semester-long concerns about the university’s requirement that all students enroll in a meal plan. The GUSA Senate passed a resolution Aug. 29 demanding cheaper meal plan options and exemption opportunities for juniors and seniors.
While there are dining options available after 8 p.m. at Epicurean, Olive Branch and Sazón, these locations do not fully accommodate students’ dietary restrictions, according to GUSA Senator Spencer Woodall (MSB, SFS ’24).
“We do need to increase the dining hall hours,” Woodall said in an interview with The Hoya. “People with dietary restrictions, such as people who are halal or have vegetarian or vegan constraints, are not able to be fulfilled by the upstairs dining options.”
However, Olive Branch uses entirely halal ingredients, and Sazón and Royal Jacket offer vegan options, while Royal Jacket and Bodega Market are both open past 8 p.m.
The lower level of Leo’s is the only dining location on campus that offers unlimited meal swipes for students enrolled in the All Access 7 plan, which all first-years and sophomores are required to adopt as their campus meal plan.
Hiring more employees to extend operating hours would also address the current issues of worker shortages, according to Sussek.
“I have spoken with several people who work at downstairs Leo’s, and they’ve all told me that they’re overworked to some capacity,” Sussek said. “We see the same faces every single day doing the same thing all day long. They’re feeding three meals a day to thousands of students.”
GUSA will continue to work on the issue of food insecurity and dining on campus, with the recent resolution being the first step in a lengthy process, according to Sussek.
“I think we can get this done,” Sussek said. “Do I think it will happen right now, meaning this semester or next semester? Probably not, just because of the way funding and distribution of funds work. What I want to highlight is that this is by no means a finalized product. This is just the beginning stages to the changes we need.”