For freshmen, it’s routine. Walk in, swipe, eat, leave. We don’t debate over whether we’re hungry enough to eat buffet-style, if our swipe will be well spent; such are the dilemmas of sophomores. Many freshmen, myself included, swipe for ice cream or fruit. The DUC gets old after a while, and soon we’re out of Dooley Dollars for Cox. Hardly anyone gives any thought to the meal plan freshmen are dealt. I once sat with a girl that had actually taken the time to calculate how much she was spending on each meal. To be fair, I’d done the same calculations over the summer, but tried to forget the number when I realized I was being charged a significant amount of money. It works out to something like $10 a swipe, if you eat three meals a day all week, which I’m sure none of us even have the time for. As if the rapid inflation of tuition weren’t enough to worry about.
Recently, I took a trip down to Cox hall, above the cafeteria and near the ball room, to the office where I investigated the matter.
“I’d like to change my meal plan; I can’t afford the unlimited swipes.”
“I’m sorry dear,” she said with a fake smile. “We can’t do that.”
“I don’t think you understand. This meal plan is absurd and I don’t need it.”
“We just can’t. If we let you do it, how are we supposed to say ‘no’ to everyone else?”
“Good question. Why are you required to say ‘no’ in the first place?”
She proceeded to explain the system. Apparently the dining facility can’t even break even unless it extorts from the freshmen; they more or less subsidize the entire operation to keep the DUC running. Part of the problem, she explained, were those without meal plans that snuck in without swiping. She had a point. Numerous times I’ve seen people walk in when the attendants weren’t looking (often they just don’t care) or taking in another’s tray, as if walking in for seconds. I don’t think the system set up keeps the students accountable; nor do I think it is fair to expect the staff to keep the students accountable. They have enough trouble serving and caring for us – must they be our parents as well?
I suggest Emory’s dining service work on creating a system that encourages honesty among its customers. Streamlining the DUC services could help lower prices, and, in turn, ease the burden on students strained to pay for just tuition. Perhaps they could come up with a system where students are required to swipe every time they enter, except the computer will only deduct another swipe if a certain amount of time has elapsed since the previous swipe. Also, the entrance needs to be positioned such that there can be no entry except where there are attendants swiping cards, much like the library. I realize the DUC will lose much of its convenience, but the trade-offs may very well be worth it.
Another consideration is a token system, implemented by one of my friends at Vanderbilt (for which he won a scholarship). Using the dots meal swipe system, we are able to choose a main course, side, dessert and beverage. Often, however, we leave one or more of those choices out, and all the money behind our swipe is returned to the school. At Vanderbilt, unwanted parts of a swipe are given tokens, which can be deposited in a box, representing the amount of money the food not taken is worth. At the end of the semester, these tokens are counted up and the total sum of money is donated for food for homeless shelters and other organizations.
In closing, I would much like to compliment the DUC in all it’s done so far in creating convenient, wholesome food for students. I met with the head chef first semester, a busy man with a chef’s hat (surprise, surprise) who runs around with flaming blue eyes and a stained apron.
He is from Beverley Hills and is very good at what he does. He explained how he makes all of his own sauces and how he comes up with the different recipes. I was very impressed and wrote him an email saying as much. So far, DUC food has not lost its luster for me, and I regret that it has for many of my fellow freshmen.
Jonathan Warkentine is a College freshman from Almaty, Kazakhstan.
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