Chang: Early dinners must go

Last Wednesday, thousands of high school seniors all across the country received the long-awaited news that would determine their next step in the journey of life: college. On March 30, Yale extended acceptance to 2,006 students. Soon the Yale campus will be overrun by thousands of pre-frosh trying to catch a glimpse of glorious college life. Many will attend the annual a cappella jam at Battell Chapel as well as hundreds of other activities. Even Yale Dining will put its best foot forward, with every worker dressed up professionally and laying out a feast fit for kings. Yale will transform into a picturesque, perfect institution for the weekend.

And when they return to campus as freshmen in the fall, Yale will still seem like the magical place they left behind: but only for a few more months. Once the initial thrill and enchantment of college fades, Yale starts to become more realistic. The 10:30 lectures at the top of Science Hill become harder and harder to make. The New Haven Green does not seem so inviting and safe anymore. And late-night pizza, egg sandwiches and bad Chinese food become part of a nightly routine. The freshman 15 no longer seems like a myth.

Late night meals seem to have become a quintessential foundation of any college student’s life these days. This is no surprise. The combination of large workloads and numerous extracurriculars have many of us burning the midnight oil — and working up an appetite in doing so. However, at Yale, a large share of the blame can be placed on Yale Dining and its restricting hours. An average American family eats dinner between 6:30 and 8 p.m. However, an average Yale student must eat dinner between 5 and 7 p.m. Coming in even ten minutes late is a grave offense, and you will surely be turned away.

Dinner is simply too early, and the majority of Yale students agree. In a survey published by the News on March 23, 77 percent of 1,700 students surveyed asked that dinner hours be extended past 7 p.m. The biggest complaint among the Yale student body is not that the window itself is too short and unaccommodating but rather that having to eat when the sun is still shining outside inevitably forces one to consume another meal and/or to snack later on in the night. This explains why the dining halls are the most crowded towards the end of dinner every night. But even eating as late as possible will not save you from late-night hunger.

Not only is having such early hours inconvenient for students who have extracurricular or athletic engagements, but it is also deleterious to students’ health. Eating late at night is linked to weight gain. Northwestern University researchers studied two groups of mice that were fed the same diet containing 60 percent fat with the same amount of calories and the same amount of exercise for six weeks. It was concluded that the mice that ate during normal sleeping hours posted an average 48 percent increase in body weight compared to a modest 20 percent increase for mice that ate on a regular schedule. Despite all its effort to be sustainable, organic and nutritious, Yale Dining could be indirectly harming the health of the student body with its limiting hours.

It is true that Yale students can take practical measures themselves to guard against unnecessary and unwanted late-night meals. These might include adopting a lean protein diet (which researches have linked to a greater sense of “fullness” during weight loss) or simply overcoming our bodily temptations for a most-likely-greasy late night meal. But how much more effective would simply making dinner hours later be in curbing late-night eating and promoting healthier diets?

The consensus is loud and clear: early dinners have to go. Yale Dining should open up its ears to the hundreds of voices clamoring for later hours. Ultimately, those who want a Wenzel at 2 a.m. will satiate their desire no matter what the hours are. However, the change will be welcome for most of us who have been forced into eating a second dinner on a regular basis. When thousands of high school seniors invade Yale later on this month, I will share with them the endless qualities of Yale that make us superior to Harvard. And I want Yale Dining to make that list this year.

Albert Chang is a sophomore in Davenport College.


  • onlineproductmanager

    Hear hear Albert. These unreasonably early dinner hours, indirectly, discriminate against those students with lower levels of disposable income. Late-night food, for the most part, is not free, and because many students are forced to eat late dinners due to dinner hours being so early, they are forced to spend money that they don’t want to spend simply to eat. While buttery food is indeed subsidized, buttery food also poses the problems raised by Albert in his column (unhealthy food, deleterious hormonal effects upon the body, etc).

    Yale Dining, fix this problem ASAP, please.

  • yalieeleven

    What if dining hall staff want to get home to eat with their families before 9 PM?

  • damurf

    Then they should get other jobs…good sh** Albert

  • yalealum10

    5 o’clock dinner is the way to go!

  • ForThePeople

    What if these people were working at a restaurant? They’d have to work at night. Mcdonalds is hiring by the way but they stay open past 7.

  • hrsn

    A remarkably fact-free piece about a non-problem. What do our peer institutions do? Why, look, Harvard’s hours are hardly different. Stanford has a few dining halls that stay open to 8, but most are on the 5-7 hours. I wonder why that is; this piece offers no clue. (Hint: research it, Albert!)

    What both places have–and what Yale Dining should consider here–are a few late-night options, which presumably are tied in to “declining balance” dining accounts.

  • River Tam

    > Eating late at night is linked to weight gain.

    So… your solution is to have the dining halls open *later*?

  • ForThePeople

    Yale probably won’t do it think of all the money they’d lose. Don’t they own a bunch of the food places on broadway?

  • grumpyalum

    Commons is open for hot dinner till 8 and closes at 9.

    Just walk a block.

  • Yale12

    Jesus, yalieeleven. That is seriously one of the worst arguments I have ever heard. What if professors want to go home a few hours earlier instead of holding office hours? What if the people who shovel the sidewalks in the mornings want a few extra hours of sleep? We can’t shape our policies around what kinds of hours employees might want to keep. I’m sure they’d love if they only had to serve dinner from 5-5:30 and got home in time to watch Oprah, too. If they want to eat dinner with their families, they shouldn’t take a job serving dinner to college students.

    RiverTam, do you seriously not understand what Albert is saying about keeping the dining halls open later, or are you just being your usual whiny, argumentative and hypercritical self?

  • uncommons

    well done albert. this is yale. not a nursing home. who is eating at 5pm?

  • Y1311

    It’s called Commons, it serves hot food til 8. Also you know yorkside sells salads right? Don’t blame people for your own bad choices.

  • silliwin01

    See, the problem is that Commons has an awful atmosphere and even worse food.

  • Undergrad

    Commons isn’t open on the weekends, and neither are the butteries, leaving people with even fewer options.

    This is why I never go trayless at dinner–because it would force me to eat less, and hence rely even more on late-night snacks.

  • yalieeleven

    “What if professors want to go home a few hours earlier instead of holding office hours?”
    That’s why they DON’T hold Office Hours after 6 PM.

    “What if the people who shovel the sidewalks in the mornings want a few extra hours of sleep?”
    Because the city would shut down.

    “We can’t shape our policies around what kinds of hours employees might want to keep. I’m sure they’d love if they only had to serve dinner from 5-5:30 and got home in time to watch Oprah, too. If they want to eat dinner with their families, they shouldn’t take a job serving dinner to college students.”

    So typical, its disgusting. We CAN shape our policies around what hours employees might want to keep. It just depends on whether you can get your head out of your ass long enough to understand the idea of a humane workplace. What is creating the greater good here? Students walking a block down the street to get a bite at Commons? Or NOT ALLOWING staff to eat with their families? Come on people!

  • silliwin01

    Staff know they commitment they are making when they are hired…

  • Jaymin

    @silliwin01 doesn’t mean we have to be dicks to them.

  • Yalie

    Seriously, finishing at seven PM in the catering industry is a luxury. Eight would hardly be outlandish or inappropriate.

  • silliwin01

    Making them stay an extra hour isn’t being mean to them. You do understand how a free labor market works, right? If they don’t think pushing dinner back an hour when they get a late shift is worth their job, they are welcome to quit and find another means of employment. This isn’t 1910, and they aren’t being oppressed by managament, denied safe working conditions, or trapped in their jobs. Many workers in the late shift eat dinner in their dining hall, at least in Silliman, despite the current ridiculously early closing hour. We, as Yale students are paying for their services, and given that we are we ought to be accommodated by them, not vice versa.

    If you want the most sophomoric counter to your point, I’ll just point out Yale dining is being a dick to me by essentially forcing me to inconvenience myself by leaving my residential college to eat the inferior food in the inferior environment in Commons or spend money I can scarcely afford at 1:00 when I get hungry again. Since I’m the one paying, why I should I be the one submitting to the dick?

  • Yalie

    I suspect the “free” part of this labor market applies to the dining staff, not to the University. Would anyone be surprised to find out that the current union contract proscribes such sweeping changes?

  • silliwin01

    I thought the dining hall workers weren’t unionized?

  • CBKM

    One: I think it’d be awesome if dining halls were opened later.

    Two: I can’t even wrap my head around what some of you are suggesting about what constitutes a “humane” workplace. Responsible employers would never have anyone work a night shift, or during meals, or any other time any business needs to function, totally! What the hell? Not everyone in society functions on the exact same schedule, I don’t even know where to begin with what you’re saying.