When students step back on to campus, they will be faced with the challenge of where to find food. And when I say challenge, I really do mean challenge. The College is certainly not known for its stellar food options, and while I really did not expect that to change for my senior year, I expected the mediocre options we had to stay the same, not to drop off one by one.
Before I address the depressing lack of locations to spend Dining Dollars, I want to acknowledge that Cosi will be adding late night hours and Qdoba will have a more permanent location in the Student Exchange, both of which I am incredibly excited for.
However, these two extensions of current offerings do not make up for the fact that the entirety of Tribe Square’s downstairs level is now empty.
Most of us at the College have only ever known the complex as a partially empty facility. When I moved in as a freshman, Subway had already vacated Tribe Square. My freshman and sophomore years I greatly enjoyed spending my time and my Dining Dollars at the remaining restaurants in Tribe Square. Even though none of the restaurants were extremely high quality, they were certainly a step up from always eating at the Caf.
While some might say that if students wanted the restaurants to stick around, they should have patronized them more, I don’t think the students are to blame for this situation.”
When Mooyah left the summer after my sophomore year, I lost not only an option of a place to spend my Dining Dollars, but also an important social place for me and my friends.
My junior year, I purchased a block meal plan and spent a good bit of the extra Dining Dollars that came with it at The Crust and Pita Pit. Since that plan worked so well my junior year, I decided to save some money and purchase the block 100 plan for my senior year with the most possible Dining Dollars since I would be living directly across the street from Tribe Square.
The fact that these restaurants are no longer an option is a blatant devaluation of our Dining Dollars. While some might say that if students wanted the restaurants to stick around, they should have patronized them more, I don’t think the students are to blame for this situation.
During the school year, there was rarely a time one of these restaurants could be found empty, and it was often even hard to get a table on busy nights at the Crust. This makes it hard to believe that the students are at fault for these businesses closing — unless you believe that students are to blame for not patronizing these establishments when they are home on breaks.
Students living on campus at the College are required to purchase a meal plan, whether they like it or not (and they usually don’t). When your required meal plan comes with swipes and a finite number of Dining Dollars, it makes sense that once you spend all of your Dining Dollars on meals outside the dining halls, you’d likely simply switch over to using your meal swipes at the Caf, Sadler or Marketplace. It doesn’t seem like a stretch to assume that once students have used up their finite Dining Dollars, they are more likely to use the rest of their prepaid, required meal plan rather than spend their own cash.
To me, it is clear that the blame for the businesses closing in Tribe Square should not fall on the shoulders of the student body.”
To me, it is clear that the blame for the businesses closing in Tribe Square should not fall on the shoulders of the student body. Students are required to purchase meal plans, Tribe Square restaurants are required to accept Dining Dollars, and those restaurants are not given any grace period for paying rent over their slow summer period. It seems like a clear recipe for failure.
The fact that all four restaurants in Tribe Square had to close seems to be an indictment of the system rather than an indictment of the specific businesses in the same way that if every single student failed a particular class, the fault would likely fall on the professor rather than entirely on the students.
While the convenience of on-campus dining halls is important, students’ ability to make choices and have options is arguably even more important. A stereotypical view of William and Mary is that it is an incredibly academically rigorous school in a town that doesn’t have anything to do, and if our off-campus options continue to be removed, that stereotype is going to become more and more true.
I hope that the administration and the William and Mary Real Estate Foundation will consider and value students’ complaints that their Dining Dollars are being devalued and recognize that the lack of restaurant presence in Tribe Square is as harmful to the campus community as it is to the economy instead of dismissing concerns as students only missing something when it’s gone.
Even though if someone asked me to name my top 10 restaurants, the Crust wouldn’t be on the list, I am sure as heck going to miss my weekly skillet cookies this year.