Students and residential staff report that Arrillaga Dining has changed the dynamic of freshman community bonding since it opened fall quarter.
While initially advertised as an alternative dining destination for upperclassmen living in Crothers and Toyon Halls, the Arrillaga Family Dining Commons has attracted freshmen from Wilbur and Stern dorms, which already have their own dining halls traditionally providing space for freshmen to eat together.
“There’s fewer people eating as a dorm in Wilbur,” said Krystal Le ‘14, who resides in Cedro this year and lived in Okada last year. “Last year, every dorm would have their own table or area and everyone would eat there, but now you only see half the table or just a couple students.”
Le added, however, that the effect has not been dramatic. She stated that Arrillaga has simply become another option to consider, similar to the eateries at Tresidder Memorial Union, when she chooses to eat elsewhere.
“I feel like there’s still a lot of people who eat in Wilbur overall,” Le said. “But rather than have every single meal in Wilbur, people sometimes go to Arrillaga. At the beginning [when Arrillaga opened], most people from Okada went there, but now it’s stabilized.”
As a Burbank resident fellow (RF) for five years, Stephanie Eberle said she has observed the effects of the opening of Arrillaga on Stern freshmen.
“I think students dine in Stern less often than they did before because there have been a couple of times when our Burbank dining area in Stern has been completely empty,” Eberle said in an email to The Daily. “But I do still see my students dining together in groups whether in Stern or Arrillaga.”
Eating in communities helps freshmen build a sense of community, according to Eberle, whether it is in their residence complex’s dining hall or elsewhere on campus.
“For a while my students were going in groups together to explore dining options across campus, so community can be achieved without a ‘home base’ dining area–as long as there is a strong residential community overall,” Eberle said.
Nonetheless, Eberle added that she feels it is easier to build this sense of belonging in a freshman dining community like Stern, especially at the beginning of the academic year when some students are nervous or apprehensive about where they will be welcomed.
Le said a potential upside to Arrillaga’s opening is that the quality and variety of the food at East Campus freshman dining halls has increased since last year, perhaps in order to keep students in their residence communities for meals.
Wilbur resident Casey Robbins ‘15 of Junipero said she finds it nice that traffic has decreased in the Wilbur dining area because there are shorter lines.
“At the same time, it can be very depressing if you go in at the very beginning or the very end of the meal and no one is there because they’re all eating at Arrillaga,” Robbins said.
Robbins said she only eats at Arrillaga about every other week because Wilbur is conveniently located and she does not notice enough of a difference in the quality of food to dine farther away. She added that she thinks that the effects of Arrillaga were much greater in Stern because it is more closely located to the new dining commons.
The opening of Arrillaga may have changed the ways freshmen build communities in their dining halls, but that does not mean that they have stopped creating friendships over meals completely, according to Eberle.
“Given the structure of Arrillaga, you really have no choice but to sit with others and it gives a chance to meet people from the greater Stanford community as well,” Eberle said. “My view is that students need to learn how to take that frosh community to the Stanford community as a whole–to explore the world together. Therefore, I like that they have options.”
Stanford Dining Administrative Program Manager Cynthia Liu declined to comment for this article.