Napkin Notes: Having a Say in the Smallest Way

From Andrea Lirio


At Bryn Mawr, students are encouraged to communicate with Dining Services through napkin notes — suggestions to improve the dining experience.  Each dining hall has a Napkin Note board that Dining Services staff respond to daily. If I’m being entirely honest, when I joined campus I thought napkin notes didn’t work; I thought it was something the school put in place to make it look like students had a say when in reality they wouldn’t take it into account. Very early on into the year, however, I learned that we do have a say!

The Napkin Note board at Erdman Dining Hall decorated for Halloween/fall!

One night, I sat with my friends in New Dorm Dining Hall after dinner. While eating our soft serve ice cream, I said, “Why don’t we have Oreos? They’d be a great topping on this.” We all agreed that Oreos would be a great addition. Then it dawned on me, “Why don’t we put in a napkin note?” We stared at each other for a bit, uncertain if writing our request would even work.

We finally nodded in agreement; one of my friend’s took out a pen while I took a napkin out of the napkin dispenser on the table. I wrote, “Hi there! Thank you so much for another great meal! I was wondering if it would be possible to add Oreos to the soft serve topping bar. I think it’d be a great addition (and also awesome for Oreo milkshakes). Thank you again. AL ’22.”

The next day, we took a look at the napkin note we wrote while putting away our dishes. Someone had signed their name on my napkin note! Signing a napkin note is like voting for that idea. Every meal, I noticed more names. While I was happy to see other students supporting my contribution, I still worried that Dining Services wouldn’t take the request seriously. A few days later, though, the napkin note was gone and there were Oreos placed next to the soft serve machine! I vividly remember feeling successful and important. Not only did I voice an opinion other students also supported, the school heard me and implemented the change. I couldn’t believe it. I did a little happy dance with my friends who had drafted the napkin note with me; and in celebration, we all enjoyed vanilla soft serve with crushed Oreos on top.

A week or so later, my friends and I realized we’d love to have regular granola added to the yogurt bar and Nutella added to the bread section. After our first success story, we decided to leave a few requests for granola and Nutella. Days later, we found both!

While this is an extremely simple example, it goes to show that students have a say in what they have on campus. Not only do we have the right and ability to suggest what we’re interested in, our school departments take our thoughts into account and do what they can to accommodate us, in the dining hall and beyond.

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