I’m quoted in the Crimson
In yet another case of insensitivity toward undergraduate concerns, Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS) shut down all the dining halls over spring break—leaving the many students who remained on campus over the vacation period without a viable meal plan.
It didn’t have to be this way. While the fiscal and labor-related constraints of HUDS certainly are of concern, the health and well-being of the numerous students on campus should not have gone so neglected.
After all the house dining halls closed on Friday, March 21, a $35 billion institution became home to possibly hundreds barren bellies and scholar-scavengers.
A surprising number of undergraduates are compelled to stay for a wide variety of reasons, all of which call for a daily meal plan.
First, many seniors are forced linger over break in order to complete theses. The final deadlines for many departments fall after the break, concentrators often open out of returning home for a spell or wiling away hours out in Cancun. Honors track concentrators studying Religion, Visual and Environmental Studies, and most of the hard sciences spend their vacations holed up in their rooms.
While spring-sport athletes who stay behind are often cared for by coaches and nutritionists, not everyone has that luxury. Perhaps most importantly, the lack of HUDS meals over break harms students who are socio-economically disadvantaged. For those who are financially prevented from a leisurely spring break, a meal plan is of utmost importance, for dining daily in the square can be prohibitively expensive.
Diego Rentería ’11 was surprised that the dining halls close for Spring Break, yet stay open for intercession. “It’s unreasonable to close the dining halls for a whole week mid-semester. Students on strict budgets like me stay because they cannot afford to travel somewhere. At least two dining halls should stay open for those students who stay behind.”
Opening a few dining halls, as HUDS does for other breaks, would be a potential solution. Bottom-line: Kids on campus should be taken care of.
There are myriad ways for HUDS to address these concerns. HUDS has been excellent about feedback lately—especially since student complaints erupted about food quality a few weeks ago. Perhaps, in line with the recent push toward more open communication, HUDS could do an online poll to find out exactly how many Harvard students will be staying over break, and what meals are most important for students to dine in. They might be able to open only a few dining halls, reduce the number of hot entrees, and still accommodate everyone while minimizing costs.
We understand that there are personnel and financial issues involved with operating dining halls over vacation. Taking into consideration the way that HUDS’ budget is determined each year, its constraints are understandable. But the distribution of funds is decided each winter prior to the school year, and the next time around HUDS should allocate some resources to providing food over Spring Break. Given the amount that students pay for board, we simply cannot have hungry kids at Harvard.