Pitch fewer tents on the dining-hall table

Many things bother me on a daily basis. My greatest sources of annoyance are those things which make it difficult for me to eat.

I have learned patience when in line for the food trough and the microwave, and when there’s overcrowding at the tables. I am even able to find inner peace when I encounter people who spend two minutes at the soda fountain to get every last drop they can fit into their glass or to say hello to friends they “haven’t seen in ages.”

After a long battle to get to my food, I sit down victoriously and join my friends in a hearty feast. Yet, even at that point, one more barrier remains uncleared: table tents.

Gmail’s spam blockers keep my inbox free from the spam, Ad-Block Plus protects me from pop-ups as I browse the Internet, but what exists to save my dining experience from the menace of table tents?

At Yale, the 14-meal-per-week plan costs $2,380. Since I realistically make it to only 12 of those meals (I’m sorry, Eli breakfast sandwiches and eggs every weekend for nearly four years have taken their toll), it comes to $14.17 for each. For that kind of money, I think I have paid not to have advertisements bombarding me while I dine.

Yesterday, I sat down to lunch to find two (unique) advertisements from the Yale University Art Gallery, the standard Yale Sustainable Food Project reminder on how eating their grass-fed burgers is saving the American farmer, recruiting materials from a company, an invitation to explore my Jewish heritage, an invitation to swing dance and some pink slip that someone added lovingly on top of the pile.

As a leader of a campus group, I understand that there are so many events going on at Yale which merit attention that there must be some way to cut through the fog. And the more orderly bulletin boards this year have been marginally more effective in promoting student events. I can sympathize with a group that is willing to put up the $200 to get decent table tents and distribute them. In the spirit of campaign season, I should disclose that I once placed table tents myself.

However, I ask you seriously: why is Yale forcing its promotional materials on its own students? I’m going to keep on eating sustainable food anyway and will continue paying nothing to go to the art gallery. It seems like advertising without any return.

The particular disturbance that sent me over the edge, no doubt staring at you if you are reading this in a Yale dining hall, is the disturbing YUAG table tent depicting The Jester. For those who have not seen this the particularly displeasing tent, I refer to a picture of a cross-eyed jester eating some kind of messy meal with red juice dripping down his hands. It looks like a scene from Kill Bill. While Kill Bill is one of my favorite films, I usually don’t watch it while eating dinner.

If some dining halls are willing to ban cell phones and enforce that ban, then it appears that a certain classy atmosphere is trying to be fostered. Accordingly, I propose that we should find a solution to the table tent problem. Without banning them outright, I would strongly suggest that only student groups should be allowed to post table tents. No corporate recruiting, and the food needs to taste better before the University can start tooting its own horn to me while I eat.

With YCC elections looming in the future, I urge the candidates to go easy on the table tents. Whoever places the fewest will get my endorsement — unless another candidate makes good on Alan Kennedy-Shaffer’s ’06 promise to resurrect Tupac from the dead.

Brian C. Thompson is a senior in Branford College. His column runs on alternate Wednesdays.


  • Anonymous

    what does the amount you pay for the food have to do with having the right to eat ad-free? it's not like Yale is selling the ads and making money out of them. it's simply a way to make people know what's going on and remind people of things they may have forgotten/or not known in the first place, such as - you said it yourself - that there is an art gallery that you can visit without paying, or that you should eat sustainable food (and why). I'm sorry that many things bother you on a daily basis, but maybe you should work on your problem and not blame it on table tents.

  • Yalie Alum

    I don't know what the above person is talking about, but those table tents were a serious menace during my four years at Yale. I remember having to literally scoop up armfulls of them just so I could make room for my tray. They've moved well beyond informative, they are plain annoying; and for the record, I have never gone to an event that I saw on a table tent. They are annoying and yes, because we students to pay a good deal to dine in hall, we ought to at least be able to find some space to put down our trays and actually eat.

    Well said Brian Thompson. Well said.