This semester, Columbia dining, CCSC ’16, and ESC ’16 have implemented a new idea in the John Jay dining hall: the Community Table. Intended to build community within Columbia, but especially within the freshman class, this new addition seemed like a nice way to spice up your meal with
awkward small talk engaging conversation. We sent Daring Diner Artur Renault to experience it.
Since I’m the luckiest man in the world, I have Lit Hum from 6 to 8 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It’s wonderful. Not only am I freed from the burden of going to any guest speakers or early weekend celebrations, but I’m also allowed the pleasure of having dinner at a perfectly appropriate hour: 5:30 pm. I usually eat alone, because most of my friends are normal people who eat at normal times.
But last night, I decided to have an adventure. I saw the blue sign—”Columbia Community Table: Expand your Columbia pride!”—and decided to try it out.
I could feel the sense of community bubbling in my veins as I ate alone and envisioned writing a GonzoBwog about how you can’t have a Community table if you don’t have People in it. But upon finishing my salad, I looked up and saw three girls leave their bags at the opposite end, cheering “yaaaaaay community table” with feigned but sincere excitement. “Maybe this isn’t that big of a fail,” I thought.
While the girls were out getting food, two CCSC ’16 members who are friends of mine, Grayson Warrick and Ramis Wadood, sat around me at the table. We were joined by a guy named Richard, who is also involved in CCSC and happens to know one of my high school friends. Additionally, he’s the first senior I’ve met who actually eats at John Jay. The girls came back and introduced themselves as Claudia, Zinaira, and Yoanna (I apologize for the spelling, guys, but we just met).
I learned some nice things from all these people as we talked about the classic conversation topics for college students who just met. Where are you from? What classes are you taking? What building do you live in? The talking continued nicely with the natural awkward pauses and the traditional “Oh, cool!” response.
But I noticed right off the bat that it looked like all the people there were already pretty comfortable with one another. Turns out more than half of them were CCSC members, and the rest were friends with one of them and had already met the rest. Plus me.
At one point Grayson said, “Pretty much everyone who sits at the community table is either in CCSC or with a friend who is in CCSC. We’re working on advertising this better.” I think that that’s a worthwhile pursuit. Lack of community is one of Columbia’s biggest complaints, and the community table could be an effective way of addressing it.
As I stood up and walked to Hamilton so I could talk about Ovid, I knew I had made some new friends. The table kind of made me feel like it was NSOP again; the right people just need to start using it. So if you’re having dinner at John Jay on a weekday, stop by the community table and expand your lion pride.
Dining varieties via Shutterstock