Undergraduate Kitchen Crisis: 800+ Students, 3 (±1) Stovetops, and Infinite Frustration


800 undergraduate students are forced to share a single kitchen equipped with only four stovetops, two inductions, and two highlights, exacerbating the already challenging cooking conditions on campus. The situation is dire, with malfunctioning stovetops, excruciatingly slow cooking times, and unsanitary conditions plaguing the kitchen space.

The kitchen, intended to serve as a communal cooking area for students residing on campus, has proven woefully inadequate for the growing number of individuals relying on it. With the rising cost of food and inflation in Korea driving more students to cook their meals, the limited facilities have become a source of frustration and inconvenience for many. Due to the increased number of students in the kitchen, the waiting times for cooking a meal have increased from around 10 minutes three semesters ago to around 30 minutes at least.

The issue is further compounded by the fact that both the induction and highlight stovetops frequently malfunction, significantly impeding students’ ability to prepare meals efficiently. ¾ out of the stoves are generally working. Shockingly, the highlight stovetops reportedly take a staggering 40 minutes to boil water, rendering them practically unusable for quick meal preparation.

With only a single sink available for use, students encounter significant delays and frustration as they vie for access to this essential resource. The resulting bottleneck means that only one individual can utilize the sink at a time, causing further inconvenience and impeding the efficient preparation of meals. Lunch break and dinner break are typically an hour long, and with the waiting time and cooking times combined, it is impossible to cook yourself a meal.

Furthermore, the cramped space and lack of sufficient cooking equipment mean that when multiple individuals attempt to cook simultaneously, they find themselves jostling for space and often inadvertently bumping into each other. If someone is using a frying pan or a bigger pot, the stove next to it is rendered useless. This not only creates an uncomfortable environment but also poses safety hazards, especially when frying is involved.

The dire state of cleanliness in the kitchen is also cause for concern. Reports indicate that the stovetops are often left dirty and greasy, with food remnants accumulating and burning over time. Additionally, the presence of peels strewn across the floor and a perpetually clogged sink only add to the unsanitary conditions, raising serious health and hygiene issues. These issues increase tenfold over the weekend when regular cleaning is not performed.

Compounding the challenge are the diverse dietary needs of the student population, including many international students who adhere to specific dietary requirements such as vegan, vegetarian, or halal diets. The lack of adequate facilities and cleanliness compromises their ability to prepare meals that align with their cultural or religious dietary restrictions, further amplifying the problem.

An option for international students is to go to Hara International Kitchen, but that is also rather unfeasible because a round trip to the kitchen takes around 50 minutes by foot and 30 minutes by bicycle, which is impossible to use in extreme weather conditions. Hara Kitchen is also extremely busy, making it hard to find your turn to cook. Students are always running short on time, so even coming to the current kitchen poses a problem for the people living on the higher floors in both the A dorm and the B dorm. Many students have to carry large baskets with kitchen utensils, raw ingredients, and spices all the way to the kitchen.

In an interview, student A, who lives in the B dorm and cooks every day, mentioned, “It takes me a total of 15 minutes to pack my cooking basket and come all the way here. I often have to wait 20–30 minutes for my turn to cook, and due to the limited stovetops, it takes about 40 minutes for me to cook. The total time adds up to around 1 hour 45 minutes per meal if I count the time it takes to clean up as well.” Student B added, “Sometimes the kitchen is so gross that I lose my appetite while cooking.”

Students have voiced their frustration and dissatisfaction with the situation, calling on the GIST House association to address the pressing issues plaguing the communal kitchen. They stress the importance of having access to clean, functional cooking facilities to support their academic endeavors and overall well-being while living on campus.

In an interview, one of the house members revealed, “None of the house council members cook, so this issue never comes up in our discussions. With our limited budget and authority, I doubt that there is much that we can do.”

Even if one assumes that only 1/8th of the student population is cooking their own meals, that is still 100 people stuck with only four poorly functioning stovetops. As of now, there have been no officially proposed plans to tackle this situation. However, after taking feedback from the students who often use the kitchen, some practical suggestions were collected.

A student recommended that a single stovetop, an air fryer, a small sink, and a cupboard be installed on every floor in every house. Here,  the cleaning supplies should be readily available, so the students are less likely to slack off when it comes to cleaning. Another student suggested that multiple island benches be installed in the kitchen on the first floor, each with a sink and four stovetops. She also suggested that B dorms should have their own kitchen.

As students await tangible improvements, the plight of those navigating the challenges of communal cooking amidst substandard conditions serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of adequate infrastructure to support the needs of the student community.

For now, the struggle continues for the 800 students sharing a kitchen ill-equipped to meet their basic culinary needs, highlighting the urgent need for proactive measures to address the pressing issues at hand.