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SMU lost to TCU in Saturdays Iron Skillet game 34-17. Next years matchup is the last scheduled game in the longstanding rivalry.
SMU falls short at TCU
September 26, 2023

Arnold Dining falling flat? Students weigh in

The Anita and Truman Dining Commons Photo credit: Sofia Arazoza
The Anita and Truman Dining Commons Photo credit: Sofia Arazoza

A group of women clad in workout clothes swung open the door to SMU’s Arnold Dining Commons one recent morning. They were met by a cloud of that sterile “school cafeteria” smell we all know so well. Their laughter and chatter about the night before hushed as they rolled their eyes and handed their ID cards to a cheery worker at the entrance.

“Good morning girls! Welcome to Arnold,” said Jesus Cararibo.

The woman closest to him offered a smile to acknowledge his kind greeting.

“We should have gone to Umph,” sighed SMU sophomore Marisol Leiva after checking in.

Leiva, an advertising and fashion media double major, is just one of the many students who think SMU’s new state-of-the-art dining facility doesn’t live up to the beloved Umphrey Lee Center cafeteria.

Arnold Dining Commons
The Anita and Truman Dining Commons Photo credit: Sofia Arazoza

“The Arnold facility is newer and prettier, but Umph is more popular because of food quality and location on campus,” said Leiva.

The Anita and Truman Arnold Dining Commons opened last year on the eastern edge of campus, near the new Residential Commons. The modern, open layout can seat 500 students and includes an outdoor patio. Large menu displays offer nutritional information and healthy eating tips, and projection televisions have been installed so students can watch sporting events or concerts together.


But, Arnold’s high tech facility has not gained the following one might expect. Jennifer Chang, the marketing manager of SMU’s Dining Services, hasn’t seen a preference in dining halls.

“Both dining halls have a similar number of visitors dining in their locations each day,” Chang said.

Arnold Dining Common’s food isn’t enough to satisfy some students. They have complained about the lack of taste, options, and variety.

“At first, I liked Arnold better because of the stir-fry station and the pizza, but after a while I got sick of it, and it has a smaller variety than Umph,” said political science and history major Izzy Gowdz.

“The food quality should not differ; there are however, different food options available,” said Chang.

Students also find that Umph is more convenient, especially when trying to grab lunch between classes. For those in the dorms that line the Boulevard, making their way to Arnold means having to take a walk across campus.

“I actually like Arnold a lot because of its set up, but it is very out of the way for me because I live in the old dorms and it’s sure not worth a 15 minute walk,” said sophomore Margaret Philpot.

Arnold prides itself on fresh ingredients and nutritionally appropriate portion sizes. But some students said the pre-plated portions are too small and the food is bland. Students also complain about limited full service hours. SMU’s campus dish website claims to have nine stations, but many students said many of the stations are rarely open when they go to eat.

“Arnold’s omelet bar is only open in the mornings, which is terrible because that’s always my go-to if I don’t like the other offerings and I feel like all the stations are always closed when I go,” said junior Kate Scarpulla.

While some students favor Umph, most agree that the staff at both dining halls go above and beyond. Some student favorites include Tamerlyn Holmes better known as ‘Mama T,’ who mans the omelet station at Umphrey Lee; Derek Page, the famous Umph greeter; and Gigi Robinson, Arnold’s personal fashionista.

“Gigi is the best. She always lets me know when she likes my outfit,” said fashion media major Josie Washburn.

SMU Dining Services said it is aware of friendly competition between Arnold and Lee.

“We encourage the friendly competition because it allows them to challenge each other,” said Chang.

The competition is also no secret to the dining halls themselves. The staff at Umph is particularly outspoken about who’s on top on campus.

“It’s no doubt we are the real food on campus,” said last year’s Staff Member of the Year award winner Derek Page. When asked why, he proudly held up a golden trophy with an outstanding service plaque and smiled.

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