Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

New DC dinnerware a smashing hit

Gabrielle Phat/Collegian

Remember arriving back at the University of Massachusetts after the five-week winter break last month and walking into Berkshire Dining Commons only to find porcelain dishes, unbendable silverware and glass cups? It was a shock to all students who were used to using colorful plastic dishware. This culture shock was to benefit students’ dining experience, and, in the process, uphold the reputation of award-winning UMass Dining and make Berk classier than ever.

“The biggest thing is that we are constantly trying to raise the bar…There are a lot of eyeballs on us throughout the nation, so we keep trying to find ways to improve presentation. Berk is the trial. It would be silly to not try it first before moving to other DCs,” explained Ryan Pipczynski, assistant manager of Berkshire Dining Commons.

Yes, the plates break. We all know that. The first night back, a dish broke at dinner time and the entire DC erupted in applause. Within a minute, another one smashed. So ‘this is why we can’t have nice things.’ No. We are worthy and capable of handling good quality tableware. There has been improvement in clumsiness since then. If you were skeptical like I was when I first discovered the change, there is no need to be, because I think the plates look nice and add to the quality of UMass’ amazing dining program. Just be careful.

“I expected things to be more crazy, more hectic. I thought table washers would have to be more cautious and help out those who were struggling,” says Pipczynski.

The food tends to stay hotter on these plates, which is a benefit for students who eat at Berk because at prime meal times, it is virtually impossible to find a seat right away. Students often scout out a table from across the room, hoping that nobody will snatch it before they do. If the plates are upgraded, then silverware needs to be improved as well. It’s an all or nothing deal, so the cups had to be replaced, as well. The previous plates from Berk were dispersed throughout the other dining halls.

Dining services is funded solely by the meal plan; none of the money comes from the University or from the state of Massachusetts. In 2004, there were about 11,000 meal plans purchased, and currently there are about 16,000. This huge jump was influential in spurring the upgrades that have and continue to occur within the DCs all over campus. Each year, money is set aside in a reserve fund for these upgrades. So students, continue to buy meal plans. The food is tasty and the atmosphere continues to improve, thanks to you.

Next spring semester, Hampshire Dining Commons in Southwest will be closed to undergo a renovation, planned since 2005, that will be similar to Berk’s. Though a lot of students are worried about this, the campus dealt with this situation just fine in 2006 when Berk was redone. The biggest help was that an area of Hamden Dining Commons was open for grab ‘n go for all meals. So, not to fear, dining services will take care of you next year.

When Berk was renovated, melamine dishes were purchased for all of the DCs. The variety of colors was intended to brighten the atmosphere. The dining commons used to use China dishes, which were not as high-end as what Berk has now, but they were breakable and served just fine. There weren’t shattered plates everywhere then, so there won’t be now.

The shock of porcelain plates was just as much of a shock to students as when the campus went tray-less. There was a 30 percent reduction of post-consumer waste because of this change.

“When we took the trays away two years ago, I would look around and see less food. When students would put their plates away, there was literally less waste on them. It was amazing,” says Pipczynski.


Karen Podorefsky is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected].


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  • R

    Robert NormanFeb 15, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    These new plates and glasses are absolute abominations and completely ruin my dining experience.

    First of all, not only do they keep your “food hot” but also your cold beverages, yogurt, cereal, ice cream, and everything else that is meant to be eaten cold. The plates are always hot.

    Another reason why the new dinnerware isn’t as great as you are claiming is because the clumsiness has not subsided. Plates and glasses continue to be broken. This causes increased anxiety. On top of already being super crowded and having to listen to loud music, we now have to worry about plates breaking and dropping the plates, because they are significantly more fragile and heavier.

    Also the new bowls are shallow as a kiddie pool, how are we supposed to use them for soup and cereal without splashing the contents around as we walk back to our tables?!

    Bring back the old plates! I don’t want to feel anxious at dinnertime any more!

  • B

    Brian CanovaFeb 13, 2012 at 10:38 am

    Great piece. But the big question looms: What did it cost?