Waiting on Waterleaf

Slow-moving plans for student-run restaurant

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At one point in time, the Waterleaf restaurant on the campus of College of DuPage was a beacon: culinary students would get hands on experience working in the kitchen of a five star restaurant, community members could enjoy a night of fine dining close to home, and college officials could get $350,000 worth of meals and alcohol on the tab of the taxpayers. Don’t you miss the good old days?

Now, Waterleaf is no man’s land, sitting empty on campus as a reminder of the recent end to former president Robert Breuder’s fateful era. With him out of the picture and Board of Trustees chairwoman Kathy Hamilton calling the shots, closing Waterleaf was one of the major changes made to the school. The stoves were turned off, employees were given their final paychecks, the doors closed, and the final verdict on its destiny was left mostly unclear.

Essentially, there were only three options for the board to choose from when deciding what to do with Waterleaf once it closed: convert the building into classrooms, lease the space, or turn it into a student-run restaurant. It was determined that the layout of the building would never work for a classroom setting, and because the space was originally built to benefit culinary students, it was decided that making it a student-run restaurant was the best choice. And it absolutely is.

COD is first and foremost a place for learning. It’s where many culinary students come to get hands-on experience working in a kitchen and excel in their field. For this reason alone, we’re glad the administration made the choice to make Waterleaf a place for these ambitious students. Especially now with enrollment numbers down, COD needs to work at attracting new students more than ever. It’s incredibly important for the school to offer its students as much educational experience as possible, and choosing to make Waterleaf a place to provide it was the right idea. We just wish these plans had been put in place much earlier.

The decision to close Waterleaf was made by the board on Aug. 13, with the restaurant officially closing its doors on Aug. 31. This didn’t leave any time between Waterleaf closing and fall semester beginning – in fact, it closed a full week after the start of the new school year. Now, the useful space sits empty and untouched on campus, with students eager to use it but without a clue as to when they will. Considering it’s already September and no official plans have been made, culinary students are getting cheated out of what little time they have to use the Waterleaf facilities.

In addition, the few plans that are actually in place for Waterleaf are vague to say the least. With the recent accusations the college has faced for its ambiguous, secretive behavior, there is reasonable skepticism from students and community members. People want answers – and action – and they want it now. The only way to clear up any confusion regarding Waterleaf’s reopening is for the administration to provide a timely, well thought out plan regarding its future and what it will mean for students’ curriculum.  They have the ideas; they just need to implement them.

We aren’t trying to come across as demanding, but it would be nice if the plans for Waterleaf became a priority, especially since the beginning of this semester has already gone to waste. In order to be one of the best, COD must provide the best. In order to provide the best, the administration must take action to offer the best education to those in the culinary program. The sooner we get students in the kitchen, the sooner the past Waterleaf scandal will become a distant memory and learning needs will be met. Until then, students are just left craving more.

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