I reminisce of the days of the unlimited meal plan. It was the winter of 2010-2011. Living in the old, unfinished Buchanan Towers during one of the coldest winters this campus has seen. I trekked through the Outback Farm and skated on icy gravel to get that Fairhaven Dining Commons. I was grateful for it. And if someone needed a guest meal, I had two extras. Those days are gone.

Somewhere between my first year and yours, dear freshmen, students forgot the importance of feeding their seniors. It’s now common for me to see more than one shivering upperclassmen standing outside of the Viking Commons, bitter from rejection. Freshmen, who can still take advantage of all the under-appreciated amenities of dorm life can’t even spare a guest meal anymore. To understand the phenomena in a deeper sense, I went undercover to each dining hall, bumming guest meals from dorm-roomers. 

There I was, posted up at dinnertime, near the entry to first the Viking Commons, then the Ridgeway Commons and finally the Fairhaven Dining Commons. I only asked groups of only guys or girls if they could spare any guest meals. My findings were interesting.

I was denied most often at the VC, by eight groups of guys and six groups of girls. If people didn’t just blow right past me, they would say, “Sorry. No I don’t,” before I finished my question.
I could have been giving away a hundred dollars and no one would have wanted to hear about it outside the VC.

Things got better at the Ridge. Five out of five groups of girls were willing to give a guest meal, when only three groups of boys said they had any to spare. It’s amazing how easy it is to ignore someone when walking with a group of people. There was a spokesperson in every group, with the resounding, “No” and maybe a pity smile. If someone was kind enough to give me a free meal, they would ditch me at the door and sit with only people they knew. Deserted near the desserts, it was not an unfavorable situation, but a somewhat unfriendly one.

I got to eat dinner at Fairhaven with sophomore Sophia Melin, a Buchanan Towers resident majoring in special education. At the end of the quarter, Sophia said she needs to get rid of her extra meals.

“I think I need to get a lower meal plan,” Melin said. “I don’t know what to do with 40 extra meals.”

I gorged on pizza, French fries and Caesar salad like it was going out of style. Melin picked a chicken Panini and broccoli. I missed the dining hall more than she, apparently.

“I used to have an unlimited meal plan. But since I moved to BT, I use less meals because I have to walk farther,” she said, laughing. I picked her brain about why people are hesitant to guest students without meal plans.

“It may be that they are antisocial. I think a lot of people don’t like having to interact with people with people they don’t know,” she explained. Melin had a point.

The students at the Fairhaven dining hall were the most willing to offer me a free dinner. Sometimes people would see me lingering and ask me to join them, before I said anything. Though six groups of girls turned me down, half of the boys’ groups I asked were more than welcoming.

Overall Fairhaven was the friendliest location, with 11 out of 20 groups graciously offering guest meals. Thanks, Fairhaven. The ridge came second-friendliest, with eight groups granting me access. Only six out of 20 groups at the VC said they had guest meals to spare.

“Maybe people are too busy to swipe their cards twice,” Melin said over dinner.

This is a call to all meal plan-holders. Open up your hearts to the underweight upperclassmen. Give back to your teacher’s assistant, treat your English grad-student-teacher and your geology lab instructor. Why? Because we too dream of the waffle maker.

There was a time when I was sick of dining hall food. Now I beg freshmen for guest meals outside.