Entrance to The Underground

KU Dining lost 60% of its workers during the pandemic, and Grubhub was brought in to fill the gap by automating payments and eliminating 40 cashier positions, Dining Director Jim Schilling said in summer 2022. 

The Underground, a once lively space for students to congregate and eat, is now riddled with theft and soured by unsavory choices. The Underground, as most students know, is a dining hall under Wescoe Hall. Currently home to subpar food and cramped tables, it was once a flourishing space that students favored.

In the past, it had options like Panda Express and Chick-fil-A, which are very popular eats among busy students. It now houses Pizza Hut, Ace Sushi, #CCCW, Starbucks, and a grab-and-go area consisting mainly of hummus and crackers. 

In a massive letdown of high hopes to many frequenters of The Underground, the unveiling and re-opening for the 2021-22 school year didn't allow the space to compare to its former glory. While on my orientation visit, I was told about The Underground and the various luxuries my tour guide claimed it would offer me. I was not alone in believing that The Underground would hold up to a higher standard. 

“I went to a KU journalism camp in 2018 when I was still in high school and deciding on college,” said Grace Hills, a sophomore from Overland Park. “One thing that stood out about KU was The Underground— there was a Chick-fil-A, a Panda Express and some other places that gave KU a leg up in the decision-making process. After coming here, I was a little disappointed to see how downhill it had all gone.” 

In addition to the less-than-optimal food choices, The Underground is now being operated via Grubhub alongside all other campus dining facilities. What does this mean for students? First, it means that students are paying more for their food due to Grubhub’s additional fees. 

They are also forced to order through the Grubhub app instead of walking through the dining hall and choosing what they want. To make options even more inconvenient, the only food options are those with which Grubhub has a partnership. Many students have expressed frustration over The Underground being their only on-campus dining option. 

If The Underground hasn't disgruntled students enough with these changes, they've certainly outdone themselves with their newest feature: stolen food. Students place an order on Grubhub, and employees bring the order to designated shelving. Then, the student may come up and take their order. The problem with this is that nothing stops other people from stealing orders.

There is no authentication process to ensure the person that picks up the order is indeed the one who placed it. This has affected freshman Liam McReynolds on more than one occasion, “I’ll place an order and do a bit of homework to give them time to prepare it, and I look up, and it’s not there. Nothing I can do about it. Just happens,” said McReynolds.

The Underground has undoubtedly lost the touch that many students appreciated, but all is not said and done. Hopefully, the school will hear our concerns and consider student voices when deciding how to proceed with its plans for the space.