One distinguishing factor about Bates dining is that there is only one dining hall. The College has always had a familial sense of its community, so the students feel strongly about only having one dining hall. It’s almost a given that you’ll bump into someone you know in Commons, since everybody is concentrated in one place. While the menu might seem to get old after going to the same place every day, Dining Services works hard to bring a lot of variety to each meal. New Commons, which opened in spring of 2008, has expanded the dining staff’s range even more. Bates has a large vegetarian and vegan population, and Dining Services certainly caters to them. There is a vegan bar that is half the dining hall in length, as opposed to ice-cream cart size, and at least one vegan dessert is offered at every meal. There is a brick oven station where pizza is served almost daily. Students can select from two hot foods lines: the grill and the euro station. The salad bar and deli are open for lunch and dinner. Bates is very good about informing the public where they get their food from and what ingredients are in each dish, avoiding complications with allergies, although there is the occasional mislabel of whether a dish is vegetarian or vegan.
The only disadvantage is that even with the larger dining hall, it is still difficult to find seats at noon and 6 p.m. However, there usually is space upstairs, although that means getting a workout climbing up and down the steep staircase every time you forget a fork or want to get more food. The Napkin Board—a place where students can leave comments, complaints, and suggestions—ensures that students actually have a lot of say in what Commons serves, and it isn’t unusual to see an item appear in the dining hall only a short time after students jot it down. An anonymous responder writes witty responses to students’ requests, adding to the light-hearted humor of the average Batesie. Years ago marked The Gatorade Wars, when students continuously requested Gatorade, and Commons consistently denied them. Eventually, the democratic process won, and Powerade machines were added to the dining hall. Dining at Bates is generally excellent; however, there is only one meal plan. Students have unlimited meals, which can be a big advantage if you stop by Commons six times a day for coffee but is also frustrating for students who only eat one or two meals in the dining hall a day. And it doesn’t help with the Freshman 15 either. Meals over breaks are not always included, so students have to pay for each individual meal at a high price. On the whole, though, Bates Dining Services is outstanding, especially considering how small the school is.