Excerpts from Mini-Ethnography on Residence Hall Dining Services
by Jessica Small

    Have you ever found yourself wondering what is all of the work that is put into student workers in residence halls? Have you ever found yourself observing students interactions and attitudes with student workers? For my ethnography project I investigated the relationships between the students and workers in the University Dining Services at FAR residence hall. I also observed the specific jobs and roles that the workers partake in, and their social behavior. I know some people may be wondering what is FAR residence hall? FAR stands for Florida Avenue Residence because it is located on Florida Avenue which is straight down on Lincoln.

     The University Dining Services in FAR is an area where students and dining services faculty come to dine in the morning, noon, and night. There is also what's called late night. Late night starts at 8:00p.m and basically serves as an eating and lounge place for those who missed dinner which ends at 7:30. There are two different dining areas in FAR. One is called Trelease and another is called Oglesby. This is because students who live on Trelease side can dine in the Trelease hall, and the students living in Oglesby can dine in Oglesby hall. However, there is no penalty or punishment for those who choose to dine in the area opposite of their side. The dining service provides various foods each day. They even supply vegetarian dishes such as pasta and lasagna aimed towards vegetarians, but of course non vegetarians are welcomed to it. There is also several different desserts and multiple beverages. This space is used for different reasons. Sometimes students come to the dining hall to get some of their homework done and to study. Others just simply use this space as a means of eating and socializing with friends. The purpose of my research is to evaluate the attitudes of students and workers. I also want to touch on the different roles that each worker is assigned to.

     I gathered my data by evaluating for a half an hour to an hour the things that occurred in the dining services on a day to day basis. I chose to record five specific days where things were not normal. When I say not normal I mean things that did not normally happen each day that I ate dinner. Since I stay in this residence hall and eat dinner mostly, I chose to observe during the dinner shift. During my observation I tried to sit close to the area where the workers were walking around at and observed them. I also chose to observe certain student behaviors towards the workers, and also students'
behaviors as a whole to them. When I first walk into the dining hall I would write about the greeter who is at the front door. I wanted to see if her attitude was pleasant, sad, angry or frustrated. After that I observe the attitudes of the workers who stand behind their designated jobs such as beverages, desserts, and the food line.

     As I began to move closer to the food I noticed that the workers appeared to be very busy. There were about five or six workers who had to keep rotating and bringing several things like chicken and macaroni and cheese because it was so busy. I noticed that there was always a shortage in food. It took the cooks in the back to fry more chicken for about ten minutes. The students would wait impatiently by tapping their feet and saying things like, "I wish they would hurry up". There was soon a form of hostility between the student and the workers because the students wanted food to eat, and the cooks felt as though they were working as fast as they could. I then started to observe the beverage area. The beverage area appeared to be very messy. There were three stations for beverages. The chocolate milk and the milk sections were the messiest. They were the messiest because for some reason a lot of people chooses to eat cereal for dinner. Students would sloppily press the button to receive the milk and let the milk spill over. Obviously the worker who wanted to not be disclosed but agreed to be talked about who was in charge of the beverages had a very mean look on his face because he knew that he was going to have to clean all of the mess when dinner was over. Every one of the students appeared to be having a good time. Whenever a song would come on everyone would sing along to the song as they were socializing with their friends and acquaintances. Even though with some people the communication between the student and workers were negative, with others the case was different. Some of the students had friendly conversations with the workers because the workers were students who they knew. One of my friends named Joanna engaged in a long conversation with two of the workers there that she knew quite well.

Click to see a map of the dining area

Click here to learn more about dorm food.

Click here for Teresa's description of the meal plan.

Click here for Kale opinion on the best and worst dorm food.