There’s one lesson to be learned from the endless stream of YCC emails asking for, introducing, and promoting new programs designed to make life at Yale better: Life at Yale offers just about everything a person could want. When YCC programs serve no purpose more pressing than a bike exchange, it’s pretty clear that Yalies have little to complain about.
But there is one feature of life at Yale that’s legitimately problematic: dining hall dinner hours. Several candidates in the recent YCC elections realized the problem, and several promised in their campaign statements to do something about it. This is surely an issue that will require more than a dedicated YCC. But anyone willing to get the ball rolling — and soon — will be fighting for a good cause.
In a Yale Daily News survey published March 23, students overwhelmingly expressed their dissatisfaction with the dining hall schedule. Seventy-seven percent of students said dinner service ends too early. At last, there is a published record of complaint against what may very well be the single most maddening aspect of campus life. It’s now time for action.
This may sound like a petty issue. Yale feeds us decent, nutritious food; it should matter little if we can’t eat it exactly when we choose. But the timing of dinner is so egregious as to pose a threat to our health — and our liberty.
Dinner in the college dining halls runs from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Those are early hours for anyone, but for the average Yale student, who probably doesn’t go to sleep until 1:00 a.m. or later, it’s an even more difficult schedule. It’s akin to living in two different time zones at the same time: Eastern for sleeping, Mountain for eating.
Inevitably, by the time 10:00 p.m., or 11:00 p.m., or midnight rolls around, someone who ate dinner at 6:00 p.m. is going to be hungry. Then comes the run to G-Heav, or Durfee’s, or Yorkside, or the buttery. A healthy fourth meal? Forget about it.
There are two ways Yale Dining could circumvent this problem. It could open dining halls for a fourth meal some time around 10:00 p.m. Then hungry students would at least be able to eat something vaguely nutritious rather than whatever’s cheapest and most convenient.
The far more sane solution would be to simply shift dinner somewhere between one and three hours later. Yes, the dining hall workers’ union would be an obstacle. But this would be a change worth the extra expense. It would provide instant improvements in students’ health, happiness and productivity. All too often, an afternoon dedicated to writing a paper is interrupted by a suitemate’s reminder to eat dinner before it gets too late.
Most American colleges don’t force such uncomfortable schedules on their students. Many colleges’ dining halls close for dinner at 7:30 p.m. or 8:00 p.m.; if Yale followed such a schedule, even this small difference would help enormously to stabilize student’s eating habits and allow students with extracurricular events to avoid missing dinner.
This is also a question of dignity. Very small children often eat dinner at 5:00 p.m.; I’ve never met an adult who does. In the world of dinner parties and meetings, among the world leaders whose ranks Yale students are expected to join, dinner does not happen at 5:00 p.m. Yalies abroad in Europe would find that even 8:00 p.m. is early for dinner. If we’re expected to be cultured, our dining halls should teach us to keep modern, international eating hours.
This is only a secondary concern, but the convenience and health issues are hard to deny. There is no reason, besides standing up for the status quo and avoiding any potential frays with a workers’ union, to keep these insane hours. YCC members should keep to their promises and attack this issue with gusto, and the Yale administration should be on board from start to finish. It’s high time we eat like adults, for the sake of our health, productivity and sanity.
Julia Fisher is a sophomore in Berkeley College. Her column runs on alternate Thursdays.