Bartlett: Derelict Dining

Sophomore Summer isn't all it's cracked up to be.

by Nicholas Bartlett | 7/12/19 2:05am

Sophomore summer is a heralded time — our wonderful academic romp about the woodlands of New Hampshire. You’ve likely read about it in pamphlets or associated propaganda, wherein the administration lauds this time of community and kinship. “The region around Hanover is ripe for exploring,” they say. And I suppose it is; it has to be. You can’t afford to have students looking inward when you essentially shortchange the summer-dwellers in regard to on-campus dining. That’s right. The Courtyard Café’s once miraculous kitchen lies vacant, collecting dust bunnies rather than quelling our voracious appetites. The Collis Café’s beloved Late Night operates on truncated “summer hours.” The Cube, the only of the three snack bars left alive, has seen its hours of operation dwindle. When the summer rolls around, it’s the Class of ’53 Commons or bust. And it shouldn’t be.

We fortunate sophomores are nothing short of academic hostages, herded into a summer term with no particular recourse or alternative but to suck it up, given the scarcity of options. Now, if Dartmouth only mandated attendance during fall, winter and spring, a relaxing of dining options for the summer season wouldn’t constitute an abuse of power. Many other universities, in fact, do offer up some semblance of additional coursework or programming when others would venture off on summer break and correspondingly reduce their dining options. What differentiates Dartmouth from some of its peers, though, is our summer term’s mandatory nature.

Sophomores lodging on campus in the summer didn’t opt into the initiative. No, we were forced into it; forced to cough up our share of tuition and room and board; forced to settle for less. Our peers at sibling universities who go the way of a nontraditional term do so knowing beforehand that it will come with a slew of drawbacks and consequences. To suffer these travails, however, is a choice, and this enviable freedom serves as its own compensation for the requisite drawbacks. Those who agreed to the extra term fully understood that skeletal dining options would haunt their every mealtime when they signed up. And yet, they found the benefits of the term to be greater than the lack in amenities. 

Dartmouth robs us of that agency. We, as students, are summoned, presented with a bill, and then met with lackluster dining facilities. I, for one, didn’t choose to sacrifice the Courtyard Café’s ineluctable “Burger of the Week” in exchange for humid classrooms and dormitories. And I most certainly wouldn’t have come to this decision without the poking and prodding of Dartmouth’s bureaucracy. I didn’t have a choice to be here here, and certainly didn’t want to foot the same bill that I would have in a term ripe with bountiful food options. 

The financial underbelly of our dining experience merits more than its fair share of jaded criticism. Dining plans don’t suddenly shrink in cost on a term-by-term basis, meaning that we sophomores are coughing up the same sum for a lesser product. As much as I do love the Class of ’53 Commons, it’s difficult to comprehend why a stingier offering of facilities shouldn’t diminish the overall price tag. If we presume that the values of the swipes, not DBA, themselves hinge upon the overall food, employment and facility costs, the effects of closing certain sites and limiting hours should play into that calculation. It is simply unfair of Dartmouth to thrust the same bill on a group of captive students when the college is perfectly conscious of its lackluster dining offerings.

Logistically, I get it. With a fraction of the foot traffic, most universities would be justified in balking at the ambitious idea of funding every campus dining facility throughout this nontraditional term. But this isn’t most universities. This is Dartmouth. And here at Dartmouth, sophomores do not have a choice in enrolling for the summer, do not face a lighter bill and especially do not get what they pay for. And all three are a bit too much to swallow.