Conflict in the Commons

Students+face+problems+in+finding+seats+in+the+lunchroom+due+to+the+new+policy+that+bans+students+from+eating+anywhere+except+the+lunchroom+and+the+front+of+the+school.+Photo+by+Vinnie+Garimella

Students face problems in finding seats in the lunchroom due to the new policy that bans students from eating anywhere except the lunchroom and the front of the school. Photo by Vinnie Garimella

After one week it was obvious that the way lunch operated changed. Teachers were guarding the entrances as if they were secret service agents, there were no students to be found roaming the halls, and in the library, small chip bags were snuck in instead of plates full of food.

Due to the new lunch policies, the academic areas including the hallways, library and senior locker area are now off limits to anyone who wants to eat lunch there, along with the courtyard and the back entrance.

In lieu of this, the foyer and the front entrance have been opened up to students as designated eating areas. The faculty believes that the policies have been effective in solving problems from last year, but some students believe that the rules are a hindrance to studying and enjoying lunchtime.

The administration perspective: David Stubblefield 

Principal David Stubblefield explained that the reasons for all of these changes were issues with supervision and school cleanliness.

“It became a supervision issue,” Stubblefield said. “Once students left the commons, it was difficult to keep track of where kids went and we started coming across issues of students being where they shouldn’t be and finding food and trash all over our building.”

Stubblefield also explained that food eaten in the library had became an issue for the janitorial staff.

“The library became a second cafeteria in terms of our custodians needing to go in and clean up, and the library has carpet, so we would have to steam clean it,” Stubblefield said. “It was a situation where we needed to look at alternatives.”

Students loitering in the hallways had become a disturbance to teachers, and another issue that Stubblefield needed to fix.

Stubblefield noted that the new lunch rules have successfully fixed all of the problems from the lax policies of last year.

“[The policies are] very effective. It’s a big change during lunch, not having students all over the building. Supervision is easier, the building is much safer, and students are where they are supposed to
be.” Stubblefield said. “[The faculty] thanked me, they enjoy the way we are handling it now because it is a lot less stressful in terms of cleaning up and interruptions, so the policy has been for the better.”

Students eat lunch in the commons, a newly designated area for eating lunch. Photo by Vinnie Garimella
Students eat lunch in the commons, a newly designated area for eating lunch. Photo by Vinnie Garimella

Although the policies have solved many problems, Stubblefield has had to address new problems such as the lack of seating for students.

“We brought up temporary chairs, ordered new chairs, opened up the foyer area and set up table and chairs,” Stubblefield said. “We allow students to go out front and eat, a privilege that students enjoy. It’s easier for us to supervise, and I think it’s a shorter distance from the courtyard and open to all students.”

Another problem that students have expressed is the inability to do homework while eating lunch in the library, which Stubblefield said was a sacrifice that was needed for the betterment of the school.

“We had to weigh what was best for the overall building. We still encourage students to use the library, but also to eat then utilize some time in the library. We’re just saying you can’t bring food in there,” Stubblefield said. “Some students eat quickly and go up to the library. We aren’t trying to impact them in terms of studying. I think it’s also healthy for students to enjoy lunch and down time so they don’t get burned out.”

Stubblefield says that the rules will be kept the same for the foreseeable future, but he is open to suggestions from the student body.

“I think for now, it’s going to stay the same, and there is a time where we can evaluate and reflect on best practices,” Stubblefield said. “I think our student body has done a great job with handling this change, and I am always open to suggestions from our students.”

The StuCo perspective: Miranda Hall 

Although there has been a lot of change to the lunch system, All-Stuco President Miranda Hall believes that the student outlook towards the new policies is positive.
“The reaction from peers that I have witnessed has been minimal,” Hall said. “I know that some people and I myself would really like to be able to eat in the courtyard, but as of right now, everyone is being really positive and mature about waiting to figure that out and enjoying the temporary seating arrangement.”

Many sources such as the North Report and the StuCo Seniors Facebook page have provided information about the new policies which Hall said can allow more input from the student body.

“The North Report did a great story on the new eating arrangements and our senior class has been kept updated about the lunch room through Twitter and Facebook in particular our class of 2014. “We really want the student body to know about what goes on, and be able to give their input so that we can get to work on making it happen because that is [StuCo]’s job.”

Hall said that for change to happen, it must come respectfully from the student body to Stubblefield or StuCo.

“It needs to come from the students. And by act on it we mean responsibly and with maturity. For example, write up a petition and bring it to Student Council, Stubblefield or come up with an idea in which we could make eating in the court- yard a privilege, but also respect the other teach- ers and faculty in the school,” Hall said.

StuCo has been working on suggestions and compromises to help make the lunch policies more enjoyable for the student body.

“One idea [StuCo] presented Stubblefield was that if we, as the students, talk to and find enough teachers who are willing to give up their lunches to come supervise the courtyard for these last few months of good weather we could eat outside,” Hall said.

Hall believes that a close relationship between the student body and StuCo can help foster discussion about the ways the policies can be changed.

The student perspective: Phoebe Frazier

Junior Phoebe Frazier, a student who goes to the library frequently during lunch, feels that the new lunch policies have affected the way she does her assignments during the lunch period. “Lunch used to be a time when me and some of my friends could talk about our homework while eating lunch, so it was a way to get ideas about homework,” Frazier said.

Frazier argued that before the new policies, the library was a good place for doing homework because there was more space and the food helped the students do their assignments.

“Eating and doing homework can stimulate the brain, so [eating in the library] makes sense. There is more space in the library than the lunch room so you can spread your books around and work on homework and eat lunch where they wanted at the same time,” Frazier said.

Students eat lunch on the sidewalk in front of the school due to the lack of space caused by the new lunchroom policy. Photo by Vinnie Garimella
Students eat lunch on the sidewalk in front of the school due to the lack of space caused by the new lunchroom policy. Photo by Vinnie Garimella

Although Frazier agreed that “the school is much cleaner,” she said that taking away the rights of students was not the correct response.

“Students would have definitely kept the school clean. We could be this clean and still have lunch in the library.” Frazier said.

Frazier noted that the administration did not integrate the new lunch policies effectively and instead pushed too much change on the student body without warning.

“[The office] did too much at once. There should have been a warning, or a year of change saying ‘if you can’t keep the library and the courtyard nice and tidy, then we will not have lunch in the library anymore’ than just banning all food from the library,” Frazier said.

Bringing in sack lunches is a compromise Frazier suggested to allow food in the library because many students with after school activities have to choose between eating lunch or doing homework instead of doing both.

“[The adminstration] could change it back to the way it used to be, or only allow students to have sack lunches so that people can throw it all away.
I think not being able to eat and do homework might even stress kids out more because they don’t have enough time for after school activities, so they use lunch to get homework done,” Frazier said. “It’s stressful to pick which is more import- ant, lunch or homework, and if students are doing an after school activity, they need to nourish their bodies while getting their work done.”

Frazier indicated that the student body has not accepted the new policies well, and the policies will only introduce new problems of students sneaking food and having unhealthy diets.

“I think our student body doesn’t like being told what we can and can’t do, especially with some- thing we have been doing for a while. Change doesn’t ever end well with the student body.” Frazier said. “Students will sneak food and con- tinue to do it until they get caught, or just not eat, which will end badly for some students.”

Frazier has gotten around the rules by hiding her sandwiches inside her bag.

“I’m definitely eating lunch in the library right now, I’m just being very secretive about it,” Frazier