I believe that all of you, my readers, are familiar with the Berkeley College dining hall’s policy on transfers. For those of you who do not know, loosely no one from outside of Berkeley is allowed in — ever. Except for the first 20 people to line up at 5 p.m. (5 p.m. for dinner? Is this a sick joke? We are college students, not senior citizens lining up for early bird specials! I eat breakfast after 5 p.m. on some days!) Also, each Berkeley student may bring exactly one guest (Lord help those Berkeley students with more than one friend in other colleges). These policies originated when Berkeley was the first college to be renovated and had a more aesthetically pleasing dining hall. The rules became stricter and security was ramped up in the last year as it has gone organic.
The extent to which Berkeley enforces this policy is absurd. While Saybrook and Branford have similar policies, they have never been enforced at my expense. If any colleges have grounds to limit access because of overcrowding problems, it is my own college, Ezra Stiles, and our brethren, Morse. In addition to being the main dining halls for our two colleges, we gladly serve Swing Space. Not only that, every night at around 7 p.m., there is a massive influx of varsity athletes because we are across from the gym. Yet despite regularly crowded conditions and scarcity of seats, I have not heard so much as a peep about limiting access to our tables, nor would I want to.
This leads me to my novel idea. If the rest of us cannot eat in Berkeley’s dining hall, then I see no reason why Berkeley students should be able to eat in any other college’s dining hall. Basically, this inverts Berkeley’s rules and throws them right back. Their students would be allowed in other college’s dining halls with hosts and a few of them could even go to each of the other college’s dining hall without guests; all could go to Commons. Berkeley allows 20 students in, which averages just fewer than two per college. I’m feeling generous. I’ll round up my calculations on other dining halls and say two Berkeley students could go to each other college per meal sans host. This allows a full 22 of them out for every meal while they only need to allow 20 into their precious dining hall.
This would not be hard to implement. The Berkeley students all have those red and white stickers that they proudly display on their ID cards and could easily be picked out as they tried to sneak into other dining halls.
This begs the question: why would Berkeley students want to leave their all-organic dining hall? Quite frankly, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Sure, some of them love it, but they all admit that the selection sucks and some nights “there is nothing there you want to eat.” I have heard the food described as “weird inedible grain [garbage].” Is it really worth going to Berkeley for “strange eggplant concoctions” that their students do not want to eat anyway? All the fuss about Berkeley’s dining hall is just because they are exclusive. It’s one of those “I wouldn’t want to be a member of any club that would have me” conundrums. Sure we can all eat in our own colleges, but Berkeley won’t allow us in. I guess some people have taken it upon themselves to make sure we all know that this is definitive proof that Berkeley has better food. If we could all go to Berkeley whenever we wanted, would we? Honestly, from what I’ve heard from friends in Berkeley I’d rather stay in my own college and roll the dice on the Pangeos station. If Berkeley would just lift this silly policy, they would be overcrowded for a bit. However, they could solve this problem simply; by serving nothing but variations on wheat gluten and soy gluten (trust me, they taste like they sound) for a week. By the end of the week, word would spread that Berkeley had terrible variety and the overcrowding problem would disappear.
All other points aside, this all boils down to equity. Yale tells us, prior to arrival, that all colleges are equal: there aren’t jock and art colleges; we can transfer to another college if we so desire; we can all eat wherever we like. Well, except the last one has proven to be quite untrue. As long as 11 colleges worth of students cannot eat anywhere they so desire, why should the 12th? Berkeley has made their organic bed, now its time for them to sleep in it. As long as the rest of us cannot go there, their students should have no privileges to the rest of the college’s dining halls.
Jason Sclar is a junior in Ezra Stiles College.