This past weekend I traveled to Harvard to visit a friend.
Since it was the first time we had seen each other since going off to college, we naturally conversed on the various positive and negative aspects of our respective schools. Eventually, the topic of food came up.
What I learned was that freshmen at Harvard all eat in one, cafeteria-style dining hall. They have no other options except to eat off campus and thus have to pay cash. Furthermore, the hours in which they can eat in the dining hall are very limited and after 8 p.m. there is simply no food to be found on campus.
Now when I described my system where I could choose from a multitude of options for nearly 18 hours a day, my friend’s reaction was one of jealousy. To him it seemed that I had the perfect dining system. He’s not far from the truth.
At Dartmouth we are very fortunate to have the vast dining options that we are afforded. However, to discover a flaw in the system one only needs to consider what I had to do the days prior to my excursion. During the days before I left I went on a mad punching spree. Punching everything I could find, stocking up on things I did not really need and making multiple stops at Topside. Why this sudden insanity? Since I was leaving for two days I was missing time when I would normally use four punches. I couldn’t simply waste them so instead I had to use them in the most uneconomical of ways.
The mandatory punch system for freshmen creates a difficult situation for many first-year students. There is a small minority for whom the punch system is ideal — those who eat at Full Fare regularly. However, for the rest of us, it provides simply economic difficulties.
A lunch punch nets only the equivalent of $4.25. Considering that a lunch of a hamburger, fries, and a soda often runs upwards of $5 in the Hop, a problem seems to exist. The simple reality is that many students cannot sufficiently feed themselves based on the meal equivalency values that are assigned. Rather, they are often forced to rapidly deplete a Declining Balance Account that isn’t all that large to begin with.
Furthermore, though the time schedule is certainly not as rigid as a place such as Harvard, the punch system confines the times in which students can eat certain meals if they are intending to use punches. Upperclassmen, nearly all of whom simply choose to have a DBA, are free to eat at whatever times they choose.
The Meal Plan Task Force, a group of students and administrators created to evaluate the meal situation, recently established recommendations for revising the meal plan. Among these revisions would be the extension of the option of maintaining simply a DBA to all students. Thus, those students who do benefit from the punch system could maintain it while those who are hindered could choose to have only a DBA.
This proposal is one that would serve a great purpose for Dartmouth. It would elevate an excellent dining system to the status of nearly flawless.
The proposal states: “Because we have given this particular recommendation a great deal of discussion and thought, we strongly urge that the College do everything possible to gain the support of the majority of the student body…” This shouldn’t be difficult.