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.