I stood in a queue at the Russell House hot line just past 11 a.m. on Wednesday, anticipating the same thing I'd seen every Wednesday since I started at USC in 2015: chicken fingers. The tradition proudly upheld at the university, Chicken Finger Wednesday, was and still is nothing short of a staple of student life.
Quickly but efficiently stockpiling bowls full of lightly breaded poultry and curly fries, culinary staff members who used to wear the name "Sodexo" on their uniforms now sport "Aramark," a company to which USC Dining made a switch after the 2016-17 academic year.
I noticed changes immediately.
The thickly breaded, fast-food-like chicken fingers that brought in hundreds of students still exist, but they are now accompanied by grilled versions of themselves to be served with mashed potatoes for those who would prefer not to eat deep-fried foods. In other words, options have expanded.
"We missed it last week, but then we heard there was a lot of hype about it," said first-year pre-business student Mary Kate Gelzer. "I think it's going to become a regular thing for me."
There was hype, indeed. In August, a few days before new students moved in, UofSC Student Affairs tweeted at UofSC Dining, saying, "Wow. We are obsessed with the new and improved Chicken Finger Wednesday dishes," with a photo of the new chicken fingers with cheesy mashed potatoes.
Gelzer and her friend, first-year pre-business student Abby McMillan, both enjoy what Chicken Finger Wednesday has to offer.
Since I knew that first-year students had little, if anything, to which they could compare their experience, I also spoke with students older than Gelzer and McMillan.
Second-year public health student Lauren Medlin saw no issue with the changes, being that the "original" option is still available. She and her friend, second-year experimental psychology student Melissa Lapierre, are rather hopeful that the changes are for the better.
"I feel like last year there was a range of how the chicken fingers would be," Lapierre said. Medlin clarified, "They had their good days and bad days."
This reporter has consumed too many chicken fingers over the years to count, but he still looks forward to enjoying the "new and improved" breaded blessings this semester.