By Maurice Nickelson
Unlike other community colleges and universities, East Los Angeles College is one of the few colleges without a student lounge and cafeteria, and many students would like one.
“It’s coming,” Sonny Martinez said, president of the Associated Student Union. A $26.6 million Campus Center project, which will house a cafeteria, a student lounge, the ASU, the student government, student club meeting halls and several multi-purpose rooms is already underway and is slated for completion by August 12.
The new three-story building will be equipped with furniture, Internet and air-conditioning. “We are the biggest college campus in the LACCD district and we really wanted to show our strength,” Martinez said.
Full-time student Kent G. Mendoza admitted he did not expect to find a campus lounge or cafeteria when he first arrived at ELAC. “It’s an issue I never thought of, but it could be good for the campus social life and could be a perfect way for students to interact with one another,” Mendoza said.
Although there is no campus cafeteria, there is a food truck with shaded tables and chairs located near the swimming pool. However, with limited seating, minimal shade and broken chairs many students agreed the accommodations are inadequate.
“It feels awful not having a cafeteria,” Sylvia Pacheco said. “Everybody wants to grab a snack, eat and chill, hang out with friends, everybody would want that. There’s no shade.”
Pacheco said she never goes to the food truck and has to walk one mile or half of a mile to eat. “It would be nice to have different types of food on campus. Everybody gets out of class and wants something to munch,” she said.
Student Jose Rodriguez also said that not having a cafeteria is not a big problem because plenty of fast food restaurants surround the campus.
On the contrary, another Elan, Melissa Alvarez, said, “Not having a cafeteria on campus is an inconvenience. There should be one. Kids don’t have time to go back and forth to fast food restaurants. And there should be salads and nutritious foods, more than fast foods because we have those all around already. All we have is junk food.”
Although some students are unsatisfied with the absence of a campus cafeteria and lounge, other students did not feel it was an issue at all.
Student Eric Navarrette said he previously attended Cerritos College and “they have a home-buffet style cafeteria with a variety of different food.”
“It would be nice to have that here. They should at least have a shop. The Husky Store is too small and there is nowhere to sit. Another thing would be a student lounge. The South Gate campus has one, but we have nothing here,” Navarrette said.
Martinez said the Campus Center’s construction began in February 2013 and is about 75 percent complete.
“The process is very long to get food vendors inside the cafeteria, and no ground has been made on what vendor exactly will come in, but I do not believe it will be fast food chain restaurants similar to what Cal State L.A. and other universities have,” Martinez said. “But I know it has been discussed (by the campus planners involved) to keep options available for people that eat healthy, but again nothing has been decided.”