By Aydin Karatas, Shehreen Karim, and Ken Matsunaga
For residents living on the Hill, The Study at Hedrick has proven to be a staple of residential dining. Its twenty-four hour study areas, including a glass reading room and blue-light room, invite students to grab their books, laptops, and notepads for a peaceful and productive study session. However, this tranquility is not maintained in The Study’s take-out dining section. Plagued by long wait times and a crowded waiting area, the process of getting food at The Study is infamously a tiresome task – a precedent set back in Fall 2021 when the Hill opened back up to residents.
Unfortunately, UCLA Dining has been no stranger to fighting unions on understaffing wage inequalities, and inadequate pay overall. These reasons contributed to the large UC workers strike in 2018, which impacted meal periods for the residential restaurants. With The Study having been the only consistent extended dinner option for students on the Hill, we sat down with student dining worker Carter Wink for his experience as an employee of The Study.
Logistics of The Study
The Study gets busy. “Roughly, we do about 5,000 orders a day,” said Wink. From sandwiches and waffles to pizzas and ice cream, on-campus residents are drawn to The Study’s as a convenient pit stop during the day, and the only extended-dining option past 9 p.m., other than the food trucks. Wink said that “the least busy time is one hour after every meal period starts,” and progressively gets worse from there.
Student’s at The Study can work 12 to 19 hours a week according to Wink, but they don’t make up a large portion of the staff. “10-15%, maybe, are students. Maybe 20%. We’re really low on students right now. If you really wanna work, you should because they [UCLA Dining] want you [UCLA Students].” Most workers doling out those famous Study sandwiches and pizzas are from outside agencies “because we need workers.”
This does bring up the question: is The Study understaffed? Wink thinks that the problem is a bit more nuanced than not having enough employees. Rather, a perfect balance must be reached so that The Study is never overstaffed or understaffed at any given moment. “There have been times [where] two people are making the sandwiches and we just can’t keep up…and there are other times where there are four people making smoothies just because we have so many workers.” With each station having its own level of business attributed to its tasks, Wink hinted that the allocation of employees per station is much more of a pressing matter at The Study than puringly being overstaffed or understaffed.
Issues with The Study
The long waits and crowding has been a major thorn in The Study’s operation, and Wink puts the blame on the excessive amount of kiosks that patrons can order from – currently the study has six operational kiosks. “I’m currency fighting for less kiosks. Take out at least two kiosks. Four kiosks is fine. Five is pushing it but I’ve seen it. You can’t move anywhere with five kiosks going,” said Wink.
This excess of kiosks seems to cascade into a further mess when the kitchen staff become overwhelmed and the waiting area becomes full of students. One position that especially feels this stress are the number callers. “Calling the number is a really stressful job because if you’re not super fast the entire time, that [orders] can [pile] up…You’re just yelling constantly.”
In addition to the sheer number of orders that can accumulate, getting orders out to their respective customers is not always the easiest task in the crowded waiting area when it starts to get loud. “Half the people are wearing air pods, half the people are talking with their friends. It makes it super stressful for the number caller. It makes it super stressful for the people [culinary staff] seeing the tickets coming in because they’re just trying to keep up as fast as they can.”
In the end, Wink believes less kiosks are the solution to long waits and overcrowding, especially to alleviate some stress off the kitchen staff.
In a bit of comedic relief, Wink also touched on the flakiness of the sauce pumps. “A lot of people complain about the [sauce] pumps. They don’t work. I’ve been told they’re state-of-the-art – I don’t know about that.”
The Study going Forward
Hopefully The Study’s most chaotic days are behind it. The shock of repopulating campus right after COVID restrictions were loosened in LA may have been a bit too much for UCLA dining to immediately handle. Wink believes that one of the main elements of The Study that should change is the number of kiosks. Whether this idea will be implemented or not, hopefully positive change of some manner will be put in place for the dining staff that work there.
With its dual purpose for studying and eating, the workers at the Study do deserve as much praise – and compensation – as the location itself.
You can find our full interview with Study employee Carter Wink below: