One of my alma materi, the campus of the Boneyard, is phasing out trays in its cafeterias. [Link] The excuses given for this have to do with saving money, environmental friendliness, saving money, energy conservation, saving money, reducing food wastage, and saving money.
I am not going to debate any of these reasons for the simple reason that I don’t have numbers on them so I can’t begin to make a nerdish assessment of their validity. Given the recent track record of the administration at this campus, I have my suspicions that everything but money is eye candy.
I am not a great fan of college cafeteria cuisine, a phrase whose only validity is its Agnewesque alliteration. I had more than ample experience with the cafeteria in Paty Hall on the campus of the Black Warrior, whose only food superiority was in comparison to the Morrison’s (commercial) cafeteria that parents invariably insisted on eating at when they visited their children-students. In this one institutional annecdote, I can subjective assess ‘dorm food” to be superior to corporate oligarchy food by a factor of at least 1.5.
Despite my poverty of trying to live on a teachnig assistantship, I did occasionally partake of food at the cafeteria of the Illini Union. This is not strictly a dorm cafeteria since, obviously, it is not located in a dorm, although this is not a negation since I have been on small campuses where there was a central dinig facility and it was often geographically close to the student center. Also, the Illini Union cafeteria is frequented by staff and faculty as well as students.
My visits were usually on cold days when my snake mind had convinced my primate mind that a cup of hot chocolate would be a boon. For a boy from Nawth Alibam, who had just come from four years at the campus of the Black Warrior, central Illinois in winter often seemed indistinguishable from the lowest level of Dante’s Tartarus. There was also a bit of palate rebellion here against my almost steady diet of cosmetically damaged oatmeal, IGA peanut butter on toasted, more-than-day-old bread, and cosmetically damaged Banquet TV dinners. Somehow the urge seemed to reach its climax on Thursdays which was Ruben day at the cafeteria. The prospect of that New Yawk delicacy transplanted to the midwest and made overwhelmingly gooey was somehow compelling in the same way of the first urination of the day.
The point to all this is that I, and most of the folks there, had books and paraphenalia we were carrying. This was before the day of the back pack except for those who had the thought as original and visisted the army surplus store – hence then all packs were green. And scarce since this was in the middle of the Vietnam confrontation and the union had been trashed just a term earlier by anti-war hedonists.
And because we were carrying stuff, usually a book and a notebook in my case, purses by the women, …. we needed someplace to put that stuff while we made our way down the cafeteria line to a table. Trays were a necessity not so much for carrying just food but the combination of food and other stuff. This may not be necessity in a dorm cafeteria where one has a room to store stuff in, but in a more general environment discontinuing trays is likely to have a negative impact on many people and they will look elsewhere for repast.