#NUSays: Is the Arts canteen, The Deck, too crowded?

Your eyes dart around the room. 

From your professor to the clock, to the kid who had just taken out his egg mayo sandwich. You let out a sigh of frustration as you observe time passing by ever so glacially through the changing digits on the digital clock.

Despite all the knowledge there is to accrue in this lecture, all you can think of is food from where’s closest to you The Deck. 

The thought of sinking your teeth into the crispy exterior of the ever-so-delectable chicken wing from the Muslim vendor, or slurping the $2 rich and soupy goodness from the Yong Tau Foo stall. Your mind is preoccupied with the thought of your next meal. Eager for class to end, your eyes remain fixated on the clock.

But what if that’s not the only thing to look out for?

What if I told you that between you and your saving graces, were people congregating at the deck, heaps of them in fact, much more than what you’ve observed in previous semesters?

This current 2019/2020 semester, NUS has decided to simultaneously renovate the canteens of the engineering and business faculties.

As many would have observed, this has further overcrowded the already jam-packed Deck canteen, particularly during lunch hours.

To investigate the sentiments of our diners, The Ridge goes undercover at The Deck during lunchtime, to find out the tea from the sudden inconvenience students now face.

Just Deal With It La

Jolyn Lee (left), Year 1, FASS; Rachel Yong (right), Year 1, FASS

Jolyn Lee and Rachel Yong are young wide-eyed freshmen. Fresh to the revered halls of the university, they were obviously new to The Deck and its crowd. 

Thus, the news of the current renovations came as a surprise to them, as they imagined the current crowd situation as the usual assemblage in The Deck.

“The crowd at the deck is definitely an eye-opener,” Rachel says upon sighing, “maybe it’s because The Deck is so much bigger than the canteen in my JC. But luckily it’s only a temporary situation!” 

Jolyn on the other hand, through school and past internships, is already well adapted to the lunch crowds at her polytechnic and the CBD. 

“The current crowd at the deck is honestly nothing short of the norm.”

To circumvent the crowd at The Deck, like many other students, they avoided the lunch peak hours. They also chose to eat at different food parlours, either the canteen at Yusof Ishak House or The Tea Party at the University Sports Center for some alfresco dining.

Samuel Rajan David, Year 2, Social Work
Samuel Rajan David, Year 2, Social Work

‘Overpopulated’, or words synonymous with it were uttered by the likes of Russel Tan, a third-year Economics major, and Samuel Rajan David, a second-year Social Work major. 

Albeit showing similar initial reactions when confronted with the topic, Russel shared a different view to Samuel. To him, the sudden influx of Engineering and Business students did make the queues longer but did little in negatively affecting the availability of seats.

On the other hand, Samuel feels that the effects that ensued from the inconvenience caused were palpable and chose to work around the situation. 

“I would choose to eat lunch as early as 11 a.m., as the crowd would usually begin around 11:45 a.m., and lasts beyond 2 p.m.!” 

With the overcrowding mainly affecting popular stores such as the Japanese, Yong Tau Foo, and, Chinese stalls, he resorts to eating at the other less commonly visited stalls.

Finding the Silver Lining

Chelsea Hor (left), Year 2, Business; Beverly Lee (right), Year 4, Business and FASS
Chelsea Hor (left), Year 2, Business; Beverly Lee (right), Year 4, Business and FASS

“The Deck food tastes better than the ones in business canteen!”

Surprisingly, second and third-year Business students Chelsea Hor and Beverly Lee found solace in the change of dining options made available to them. Both were excited that The Deck offered greater food varieties. Nonetheless, time wastage was still a key concern for students like Chelsea. 

“As a single degree Business student, it doesn’t make sense for me to travel to The Deck to get meals. It’s too much trouble!” 

In contrast, double degree student Beverly found this arrangement rather natural and “convenient”, as she was already travelling to and fro both faculties for classes. 

“There’s air-conditioning and shelter if you walk through the School of Computing, so it’s quite ok!” 

When asked if they would choose to purchase the prepackaged food sold along the corridors of the Business canteen, both students were unwilling to do so as they found the food “unappetizing and cold” by the time they had consumed it. 

On the other side of NUS, third-year Mechanical Engineering student Favian Teh had a different experience with the food sold along the stretch of tables and vending machines in the Engineering faculty. 

“I kind of like this arrangement. I can easily bring my food to eat in class.” 

Other engineering students, who wish to remain unnamed, claims that there were ways to “game” the system. One student shared that they were able to obtain “free food” from the vendors once the food “expires” at 3 p.m. 

Umi Kalsom, Muslim stall owner
Umi Kalsom, Muslim stall owner

As opposed to the grievances of students, Umi Kalsom, the owner of the Muslim Stall at the deck, finds a silver lining to her sudden increase in workload. She adds that despite the ton of cooking, standing, and serving that she now has to do, she finds that profits have risen by almost double. 

“The students are still very friendly and respectful to us when they buy food, although they have to wait longer,” Mdm Kalsom states.

Also exhibiting the positive attitude towards work is the extremely affable cleaning lady, Teo Ah Kam, who commented that despite the heavier workload, with perseverance, the temporary situation is far from unmanageable. 

The Ridge says 

Overall, NUS remains divided on the recent arrangements made.

While some expressed frustration caused by the issue of overcrowding, others celebrated the introduction of prepackaged foods and vending machines that made dining more fuss-free and accessible. Similarly, a handful took the opportunity to venture into other parts of NUS for various food options, which we feel is a definite must if you wish to obtain a holistic experience in your time here. 

Are you pissed or feeling a-okay about this arrangement? Don’t shy – tell us what you think at theridge.team@nussu.org.sg

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