Soto: In moving Fran’s, it is important to maintain its spirit


Isabella Soto, Columnist

The closing of Willard Residential College for the 2016-2017 school year, and the relocation of the dorm to 1835 Hinman, has left students within the Willard community and beyond with numerous questions on what will happen to Fran’s, the late-night equivalent of the Willard Dining Hall. Concern exists about whether the familiar faces of Fran’s and the quintessential late-night menu will remain. But the relocation has also caused students to delve deeper and question whether or not the experience — the spirit of Fran’s — will exist at its new location.

During the freshman housing crunch the summer before officially joining Northwestern’s student body, I remember talking with potential roommates who were interested in Willard. In most of the conversations I had, people always made a point to mention Fran’s. Still, it was not until I moved into Willard and made my first trip to Fran’s that I really grasped the importance of Fran’s not only to Willard’s residents, but to all NU students.

Fran’s is an indelible aspect of the South Campus experience — a place to visit after a Thursday night at the Mark II Lounge or for a break from a stuffy and solitary dorm room. It’s a place to treat yourself to an equivalency meal’s worth (or two!) of food after a week of midterms. Above all, Fran’s is the common room of South Campus and serves as a “third space” for all students on campus outside of dorms and classrooms.

Although some may argue it is just a campus restaurant, there is something different about Fran’s. Fran’s sees students in some of their most vulnerable moments. Plus, there is something reassuring about being able to study by a warm fireplace until 2 a.m., comfortably knowing one is not alone in stress-eating a basket of tater tots.

I not-so fondly remember crying in Fran’s over my first experience getting swindled by a concert ticket scalper on Craigslist. Although I eventually wiped my tears away and indulged in a consolatory milkshake, there was something instinctively comforting about coming down to Fran’s and knowing I could find friends to confide in. Any time I find myself missing my mother’s warm accent and uniquely Caribbean concern, I stroll into Fran’s for a conversation with cashier Yiraida Berrios, who is originally from the Dominican Republic, and am instantly soothed by her motherly care and doting attention to each student that walks in.

While the cozy aspects of Fran’s, such as the couches and the fireplace, may not be present in Hinman, it is obvious that it is the sense of community that brings NU students into the otherwise humble Willard dining hall. Brad Zakarin, director of residential academic initiatives, told The Daily last month that 1835 Hinman’s dining hall will have the “same staff, same hours, same food services … to ensure the continuity of experience.”

The relocation of Fran’s will be a multifaceted effort, and it already seems like Residential Services is committed to preserving its integrity and making sure it continues to be the comfortable space students have come to know and love. Despite the changes, if the flow of Nutella milkshakes and quesadillas is not interrupted and I get the chance to hear Berrios calling everyone “mi amor” on a daily basis, I know I will feel at home.

Isabella Soto is a Medill freshman. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.