The Dine@CU App Is Ruining My Life

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There is nothing that staff writer Jake Tibbetts loves more than cafeteria-style buffets, and there is nothing that he despises more than unreliable technology. Like any rational human being, Jake believes that the best way to address Columbia Dining’s failure to keep its online menus updated and accurate is to air his grievances online. He’s got a lot of problems with the Dine@CU app, and now you’re going to hear about it.

Expectation vs. Reality

For me, an unabashed carnivore who has pledged himself to #teamjohnjay, Meatless Mondays have never been easy. Regardless, I’ve always been willing to do whatever it takes to get by. Because I’m a stubborn man who refuses to accept the constraints that Big Veggie seeks to impose on college students, I often find myself strolling into enemy territory (i.e., Ferris Booth Commons) on Monday evenings in order to load up on something that at least somewhat resembles poultry. When I woke up on February 12th, 2018, I opened the Dine@CU application to see what was going to be served for dinner in Ferris, and I was genuinely excited by what I saw. I surprisingly couldn’t wait to stop at Ferris in between evening classes to dine on herbed chicken, plantains, sautéed kale, baked yams, and rice pilaf. When I arrived later that evening, though, I was confronted by a terrible sight. Fifty or sixty hungry Columbia students were standing in line to fill their plates, but there was neither any chicken nor any plantains nor any kale nor any yams in sight. Instead, the dinner station was occupied by trays full of pork Italian sausage with peppers, beef meatballs in marinara sauce, “cous cous” pilaf, spaghetti with parsley, and broccoli with olive oil and garlic. Disappointed, I rushed over to the soup station, hoping to find the split pea with ham soup that Dine@CU promised me. Once again, I discovered that I had been lied to: Ferris was serving a chili and a chowder, but the soup in question was not being offered.

If this were an isolated incident, I would take it in stride. Crying over one instance of missing soup is, after all, equivalent to crying over spilled milk. Sadly, however, the Dine@CU application is so ridden with incomplete and faulty information that I have come to expect to be disappointed every time I walk into a dining hall.

On some days, the listings on the app for lunch and dinner in a given dining hall are swapped. A few weeks ago, after walking into John Jay Dining Hall for lunch expecting to find chicken parmigiana, I was told that I had received faulty intelligence, and that the chicken would not be served until early in the evening. I was forced to suffer through a plate of some kind of beef, which I had been led to believe would be served for dinner. This ruined my dinner plans as well; instead of going to JJ’s for their daily special, I was going to have to trek back into John Jay later in the day to get my hands on some chicken parm.

On other days, entire dining hall menus are switched around: What is said to be being served in Ferris for lunch is actually being served in John Jay, and what is said to be being served in John Jay is being served in Ferris. There’s little worse about the Columbia experience than swiping into one dining hall, finding out that what you wanted to eat is being served halfway across campus, and having to use another swipe to get your hands on that food. Fortunately, this is a problem that JJ’s, which serves its own unique cuisine, rarely runs into. Unfortunately, the JJ’s menu on the Dine@CU app is ridden with its own problems. Menus for entire days seem to be switched with one another: What is said to be offered on Monday may actually be offered on Tuesday, what is said to be offered on Tuesday may be offered on Wednesday, what is said to be offered on Wednesday may be offered on Monday, and what is said to be offered on Thursday may never be offered at all.

Each of these sins is just as difficult to forgive as the last, but the gravest of all the sins committed by Dine@CU is the absence of entire meals from the menu. On some occasions, Ferris will only be listed as serving breakfast and lunch; on other occasions, John Jay will only be listed as serving dinner. The case of the JJ’s menu, however, is the saddest of all. Since the beginning of the spring semester, breakfast and late-night offerings at JJ’s have not been listed on the application. As someone who refuses to make the journey from his Furnald single to the basement of John Jay before sunrise without knowing what is being served ahead of time, this technological malfunction has kept me from satisfying my late-night and early-morning cravings for deep-fried anything.

I won’t even get into the soup-related inaccuracies. Writing about the soup-related inaccuracies would only make me tearful.

If Columbia Dining wants me to continue to spend my (parents’) hard-earned money on exorbitantly priced meal plans, the least that it can do is guarantee that its app is up-to-date and accurate at all times. Until it can do that, catch me spending my Meatless Mondays at Dig Inn or Pret A Manger.

Photo by Jake Tibbetts

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