From December 23 to January 2 the University of Tulsa’s campus was officially closed. Besides Subway, all on-campus food choices had been closed since the last day of school, the 15th of December. Of course, not all students were off campus; some stayed in halls, fraternity row and apartments are available over break. No matter the presence of students, more on campus food options should not be open during break.
If on-campus options were open over break, it could be easier for students to get food, certainly, but the university is not situated on a desolate road, miles from civilization. On 11th street, there’s a multitude of fast food and convenience stores, from QT to Lone Wolf. There’s even a Subway right across from the USA West to replace the one in ACAC. In addition, grocery stores, like Warehouse Market, are within a 20 minute walk away — and that’s counting from Reynolds Center. While the weather wasn’t always pleasant during the past winter break, there were a few days that broke 60 degrees. That long of a walk is not unreasonable — I did it for an entire semester abroad. If one has a car, or access to a bus or taxi, the options are even greater. For those not inclined to walk, delivery is an option; last year, living in Hardesty Hall, I saw people ordering pizza when Pizza Hut was minutes away.
The number of students on campus, too, is likely very small. According to Mona Chamberlin, the halls were accessed 300 times over the three weeks of winter break; many of these are probably repeat visits, for if one lived in the dorm over break, presumably they’d need to leave and reenter multiple times. Those in apartments or fraternities generally cook for themselves and don’t rely on on-campus food to survive.
This low number of students means it’s unprofitable for the restaurants to stay open over break. If it was profitable, Sodexo would keep them open, as more money is never a problem. But staying open requires paying electricity, for lights, heat, cookware and other necessities, as well as water, foodstuffs and, of course, salaries.
But only four out of ten of the restaurants in ACAC are open by dinner time during the normal school year, suggesting that, for the majority of places, not enough students are willing to stop by during dinner to keep them in the black. How much less traffic would these places see over break if the majority of the population has gone home? Keeping these places open doesn’t make sense for Sodexo. Even over summer break most of them, with the exception Subway and limited hours at the Pat Case Cafeteria, are closed, because of a similar trend.
Closing these restaurants also means the employees have a break. Those I talked to this week, from cafeteria and ACAC workers to professors, expressed how nice it was to relax and take a break for a few weeks — something almost any student would agree with. Although Americans in particular are notorious for not using all of their vacation days, various studies agree taking a vacation is better for one’s health, productivity and overall enjoyment. The reactions of these employees demonstrate these studies, and if restaurants were forced to stay open — which would be negative financially for the company, potentially decreasing the number of people they’re able to employ — these employees wouldn’t get a break.
Before I’m written off as heartless, I have stayed on campus during various breaks when all food places were closed. I went to buy food at grocery stores or the fast food restaurants nearby. It wasn’t as quick or easy, but my quality of life didn’t deteriorate too much from a mild inconvenience. The costs of keeping these places open over winter break far outweighs the benefits.