On Saturday, September 27 at 7 pm, RPI will host the first home night football game in three years. The event, called “Pack the House Night,” will begin at 4 pm with a BBQ hosted by Hospitality Services. Because they are hosting the event, Commons Dining Hall will be closed for the entire evening, beginning at 3 pm. The staff of The Polytechnic believes that this decision is misguided and unfair to the Rensselaer community.
With the closing of Commons, a majority of students, especially freshmen, will be forced to make the trip up the hill to the BBQ. While Burdett Avenue Residence Hall’s dining hall and Blitman Dining Hall will remain open, they do not have the capacity to accommodate the additional students. Additionally, Blitman is inaccessible for most freshmen as the West Campus Shuttle service ends at 5 pm on Saturdays, the exact time which Blitman opens for dinner. Students with special dietary needs can only access My Zone in Commons. Unless many alternatives are provided to meet all of the students’ dietary needs, what will these students do? We do not believe that regular dining services should be cancelled to accommodate an event. If it is a staffing issue, bring in extra staff for special events; do not close the primary weekend dining hall.
However, we think it may be more than a staffing issue. Historically, football games have suffered from low attendance, and the goal of this event is to maximize attendance; however, the method of improving attendance should not be to make going to the pre-game event all but mandatory for students who live on campus with a meal plan. Instead, the game attending experience should be altered so that students are intrigued to go to all games, not just a single one so they can eat. For example, the men’s ice hockey games have great attendance all season, and Commons remains open all evening for their Pack the House Night.
Finally, the food being provided is not free, but instead costs either a meal swipe or pay the door price. This is a fundamental issue for us, as we believe that an event which is about school spirit and enjoying time with your peers should not cost money, but should instead be provided as a service to the community. If it is not financially viable to achieve this, Commons should remain open.