This semester, Barnard’s late night dining moved from Hewitt Dining Hall to Diana Cafe. Many of the students who visit the dining halls between 8:30 and 11pm are the same, but has the very nature of late night become intrinsically different while they were celebrating the new uses of their meal swipes? Senior staffer Betsy Ladyzhets reflects on the changes she’s seen.
Once, in a bygone era (i.e. last year), you could always find me in the same place on Sunday nights: Hewitt late night.
Sundays were often the most stressful days of my week; I would wake up panicked about how much homework I had to do, procrastinate on that homework by taking an extremely long time to eat breakfast, attempt to get through a lot of it (and fail miserably), go to a string of evening club meetings, then find myself exhausted, overwhelmed, and above all else – hungry. That hunger would without fail take me to Hewitt for a late dinner, at which I would tear through three or four pieces of pizza while getting very slightly less behind on reading.
The dining hall, with its trapezoidal trays and piss-colored tables, always seemed to me like an oasis of comfort within a school that was often too much for me to handle. Hewitt has almost a homey atmosphere – maybe it’s the small tables, or maybe it’s the friendly staff, or maybe it’s the vaguely yellowish haze that always seems to hang over the place, like a nostalgic filter in a romantic movie. And if you’re a Barnard student, especially a first-year, there’s a very high chance that you’ll run into someone you know there – especially during late night, when it seems as though everyone wants to delay doing their difficult reading just a little longer.
To be fair, the food served during late night hours usually only tasted good to me because it was only the second meal I’d eaten all day. Hewitt had a weekly schedule for late night, mostly consisting of college staples and leftovers; pasta was always served on Sundays, for example, and hamburgers were served on Tuesdays (if I remember correctly.) However, most students who went would simply grab a bowl of cereal, a bagel, or a piece of pizza, and eat it as slowly as possible. The food now served at Diana late night (which is the same as their dinner menu: individual pizzas, salad bar, grill, soups, smoothies) is objectively much more tasty, and definitely healthier.
But Hewitt has at least one thing that Diana does not: a kosher section. Many Jewish Columbia students eat at Hewitt regularly, because it is the only kosher dining hall on campus – and last year, these students were able to enjoy late night dining along with the rest of us. This year, however, they’re delegated to eating only during daylight hours, a punishment to which no college student should ever be subjected.
Plus, whether or not current Barnard students were fans of Hewitt late night, they have to admit that Columbia students never went. (This was less because they weren’t allowed in and more because they saw no reason to cross Broadway when JJ’s stayed open until 2am.) Late night was, in a sense, a safe space for Barnard students; any first-year heading there for a late bowl of cereal or a cup of coffee to start their all-nighter could be certain that she wouldn’t have to deal with Columbia guys. We’d go to late night in pajama pants, we’d go to late night without bras. Now, we go to late night prepared to fight our way through the smoothie line.
Many of my most vivid memories from last year are from Hewitt late night. I remember enjoying long conversations with friends I ran into there, and I remember sitting at a small table with my pizza and my reading, feeling warm and full and as though all was right with the world.
Sometimes, I catch myself wandering towards Barnard Hall on Sunday nights, wondering what kind of pasta Hewitt will have for late night, or if maybe they’ll open early, just for me. I get all the way to the stairs leading down to the basement, and for a second, I close my eyes and imagine late night – the piss-yellow tables, the lukewarm pizza, the girls in pajama pants.
And then, I shake myself a little bit and head to JJ’s.
Closed after 7pm forever via last-semester Bwog