Ever since the macroeconomy nearly collapsed, I’ve been convinced Middlebury’s Utopian dining hall system would not last. Within the context of a leaner College, it would seem logical to modify our open dining hall system. In a post today on his blog, President Liebowitz hinted that the he is now taking a hard look at the issue. He writes that the current system “seems ludicrous” from a purely financial perspective. But he also discusses how the dining hall system is valuable to the Middlebury experience.
President Liebowitz is certainly doing the necessary political posturing if he wants to modify the system. Unilaterally changing the cherished set-up without input would cause an uprising (I exaggerate, but people would be pissed). Beyond President Liebowitz’s possible politicking, he seems to get that the dining hall system is important. His post is thoughtful and genuinely asks for input into what part of the dining hall system is most important for the Middlebury experience.
This issue isn’t easy. In my mind, the dining hall system brings our student body together. Any student can go to Ross or Proct[eu]r and relax with friends. There’s no swiping or meal plan standing between us and our ideal socialist society. Which, all kidding aside, is really valuable. Liberal Arts Colleges are by definition not the real world, and equalizing the student body by not having a meal plan furthers our goals as an institution.
And yet, within the context of the recession, changing our expensive system seems to be something we should at least consider. In this discussion, I think it’s also important to acknowledge that the food has in, in my mind, gotten noticeably worse in the past year. (Anyone who disagrees should try the new replacement cream cheese.)
Ultimately, I believe the dining hall system plays a critical role in bringing out the best parts of Middlebury: community, friendships and open-mindedness. We should make sacrifices to retain this essential part of the Middlebury experience.
Regardless, I think President Liebowitz is being sincere in asking for input.
So I encourage you to read President Liebowitz’s post and drop a comment.