Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of complaints about campus food. Apparently, the dining hall food tastes like cardboard, the coffee is revolting in a new and unique way every day, and the restaurants in Hyde Park are situated as far away from campus as possible. One thing is for sure: this University does have a problem. But it’s not the one you might think. If you ask me, the real issue is that the food is way too good, cheap, and close to campus.
At the root of student complaints is the delusion that buying a meal plan should give you access to good food. But you’d have to be seriously out of your mind to believe that. Remember, you’re here exclusively to learn. Not to eat. And yet we are eating. It’s a serious problem. This University isn’t really a University at all—it’s more like a gigantic restaurant with a few classrooms. And that’s leaving students weak, pampered, and far too happy about food.
If you think about your average day, you’ll see a disturbing pattern. First, you pull yourself out of bed and drag yourself to Cathey or Bartlett for a huge mound of eggs. If you’re on the Unlimited Meal Plan, you’d better eat up. Those eggs are costing you nearly $6000 a year. Luckily, though, they’re worth every penny. Your breakfast is so fantastic, it’s a wonder you’re able to concentrate on your morning classes at all.
If you’re a normal human being, you rely on coffee. So it’s a relief that the dining hall has amazing Starbucks-labeled coffee that sure enough tastes exactly like Starbucks. I think we can all agree that this alleged “Starbucks” is a crutch we wouldn’t trade for the world.
If you find yourself unable to focus during your afternoon lecture, it’s almost certainly because you’re reflecting on how amazing the food is here. And if that midterm didn’t go so well, the thought of a delicious lunch from the Euro station was definitely distracting you—the best part about the unidentifiable meat is that it’s always a surprise! By the time you’ve finished your last bite of dinner, your GPA has probably dropped. You don’t want to do schoolwork; you just want to gorge yourself on dining hall food all day. Let’s face it: you’ve been pampered.
Thank God they close the dining halls on Saturday nights! Perhaps you were worried that your “Unlimited Meal Plan” would actually be unlimited. That name’s a delightful misnomer; you pay an extraordinarily reasonable $5,800 a year for a meal plan that’s unlimited, except when it isn’t. It’s clear that the meal plans here are ironically named—yet another quirky feature about this University we can all appreciate.
So, every Saturday night, we lazy students are forced to explore the many and varied culinary delights of Hyde Park—takeout, more takeout, and still more takeout. If you order as a group, one intrepid individual might have to step outside in the harsh winter weather to pick up the order. The truly bold might wander all the way to the Med through the ice and snow—a 10-minute walk turned into a lifetime by the wind chill.
If you do choose to eat out, reflect on how constructive the experience is. Sure, you might curse the universe while you trudge back to your dorm (you’ll have plenty of time), but remember, paying several thousand dollars for food that you don’t actually get is excellent preparation for the disappointments of adult life.
Some might argue that having access to good food throughout the entire week should be a no-brainer, since students and their parents are forking over up to $68,000 a year to the University.
But that’s ridiculous—what the school needs to do is dish out some tough love. Having food is clearly spoiling us. It’s high time we got rid of the dining halls. The restaurants should all move even farther away. The food trucks need to pack up and go. People like them too much. If the University feels obliged to keep the dining halls open, they should serve salad only. With just lettuce. Only then could you focus on what really matters—overworking yourself now for a degree that will allow you to overwork yourself at a desk job later.
Natalie Denby is a first-year in the College majoring in public policy.