Each new year, Yale has a few surprises for us. Calhoun is back, Morse is gone, Harkness is getting a face-lift, Book Trader now makes BLTs and there’s a bunny in my living room. But the most impressive change by far, the one that really made me stop and say “whoa,” was none other than that Old Campus/Elm Street staple: Durfee’s Sweete Shoppe. (And yes, the full title appears on your bill every time you make a purchase — note that, freshmen. Your parents might.)

For those of you who haven’t been yet: The once drab, basement-like hub of microwaveable treats and energy drinks is now (drum roll, please) NEON GREEN AND PURPLE.


It’s true. Apparently, Yale’s budget — though recession-tightened and not large enough to support the salaries of some brilliant but unlucky professors — has room for redecorating costs. Why?

One theory is theft reduction. After all, everyone has that friend who goes in to buy one Red Bull and mysteriously comes out with three. The wacky paint just distracts from the fact that gone are those long creeper-friendly aisles so conducive to pocketing a $5 yogurt stick or, in my case, zoning out for 10 minutes in a corner while contemplating the excessive array of Wheat Thin–like products available at 2 a.m.

Now, the walls sport space-age food-display cases that glow blue and remind me of “Minority Report.” Would you steal from a fridge that pulses blue? Would you stare at it, even?

Not if you read sci-fi.

We can’t blame all the changes on theft-prevention, though. I mean, what about those fancy green glass lights suspended over the checkout counter? They make me want to make out, not pig out. So perhaps Yale was aiming to encourage better eating habits? Or cashier morale? I interviewed one clerk for her thoughts:

“The colors are nice, but this place is trippy now,” she said. “Y’all are gonna come in here wasted at night, and be like ‘Oh man — Barney colors. Crazy.’ I don’t know why they picked purple. They didn’t ask me. I’d have picked orange. I read somewhere that orange and red make people hungry, and that’s why all the fast-food places have red logos. So if they’d listen to me, we’d sell more pizzas.”

That’s right. Durfee’s makes pizza now. There’s a big metal oven just behind the counter and actual delivery boxes. Apparently, it’s because meal-plan lunch swipes count there this year. Which reminds me of the time my high school just quit serving hot lunch because it was easier and cheaper to outsource to the hot dog and freedom-fry man who stood on the corner. Does this mean no more tofu apple crisp on Thursdays? I hope not.

Whatever the cause, depression-era Durfee’s is certainly classier.