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In his latest report to the Board of Overseers, that of January 21, 1926. President Lowell writes as follows. "After the war the habit of forming club tables of friends, who met together continuously for meals, was practically given up altogether by the students. Both undergraduates and members of the graduate and professional schools preferred to go sometimes to one place and sometimes to another, and especially to cafeterias where the social side of dining is reduced to a minimum. The attendance at Memorial Hall therefore diminished until it became probable that it could not be maintained without a heavy deficit. In the spring of 1924, circulars were sent to a large number of students asking for suggest ons about conducting the hall, and those received which appeared to represent views commonly held were adopted. Nevertheless, the attendance in the following autumn was so small that the service could not be continued without a loss, and at Christmas the hall was closed. Since the city has enclosed the University, there have been in and near Harvard Square an increasing number of cafeteria where good board can be obtained as cheaply as we can furnish it. With its large kitchens Memorial Hall is expensive to conduct unless the number of meals served is proportionate to the equipment; and it seems unreasonable to carry it on at a loss if no social purpose is promoted thereby. For this object the Hall can provide what commercial restaurants cannot; for it can furnish club tables which they cannot afford to reserve. But at present the students do not seem to regard meals as social occasions, or have any desire to get together at such times. There are, however, signs that they are becoming weary of what they call eating around, and in fact the number of men taking their meals at the Union has largely increased, although they do not have club tables there, in time they will learn that the table is a natural place for social intercourse among civilized people, and they will again appreciate the value of club tables in forming enduring friendships which enrich the value of college and its memories. When they do so, the University will be able to supply a place for them."
Thus in a brief sketch is outlined the development in recent years of the food situation at Harvard. Yet too easily can a false inference be drawn. It is not completely true that the Harvard student is an unsocial animal, that he prefers to take his food from a shelf and his friendship from an arm rest. Not even the maligned graduate student is exactly that near the automaton--not even the faculty member. And the real reason for the decline and fall of the Memorial Hall dining room is easily apprehended. In the first place, Memorial Hall, when the dining room closed, was no longer central; in the second place, Memorial Hall had no adequately equipped staff of dieticians.
At the present time the only two units which the University has in active function, serving food, are the Freshman Halls and the Union. The Freshman Halls are at last a credit to the University, having risen from the state in which bad management early placed them. The Union, although it has the monopoly of non-club trade, including all the schools of the University located in Cambridge or perhaps because of that fact continues with a menu suitable for an occasional meal, horrible for a diet.
Outside the University are the cafeteria of the Square. As cafeteria they are not on the whole bad. One can live on their food, if he can pay for it. Realizing their lack of opposition from within the University they charge, this year at all events, exorbitant prices. Unless one limits himself to a barren and unwholesome diet he soon finds a college experience at their tiled board far from inexpensive.
Now about this evidently impossible situation something must be done. "The University will be able to supply a place for them." They can be taken as it stands. Certainly the need of such a place or places is now evident. The important duty is that of attempting some definition of just what that place or what those places should be.
And here one merely turns to the obvious in the history of the question. Memorial Hall cannot be used. Few want to eat so far from their ordinary route And few more care to eat in quite such a heavy atmosphere. Whatever plans are made must include central locations, attractive buildings or rooms. Then, as has been seen, the University, though it hers at last raised the standards of the Freshman Halls tends toward a poor, often purely stupid system of dietetics. Instead of having a capable staff here at Harvard whose training and experience alike fit them for the function of superintending the University dining halls, there is at best a group of former or potential hotel managers and chefs, decidedly of the old school. There are certainly enough skilled at this kind of work who can be obtained for service here.
The CRIMSON cannot outline definitely a complete scheme by which the graduate students shall drop his shackles of tiles and trays, the undergraduate lose his Grecian fetters, and the faculty member forget forever the mawdln messes of the Colonial Club. That is even too difficult for an undergraduate newspaper. It can however state with all sincerity that conditions here are far from what they should be both in food and the price of food. Furthermore, it can suggest that somewhere near the Yard pleasant rooms, fed from some central kitchen could serve meals planned by capable dieticians, perhaps of the feminine gender, for modern man has a certain robust fear of dietetics, meals which could be eaten in comparative quiet among friends--then there would be fewer haggard undergraduates, and there would be less truth in the myth that a graduate student is a rare, rare bird. It is high time that the cafeteria tray be taken from the shelf of Harvard custom.
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