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To the Editor of the Crimson:
Everyone interested in the welfare of the student body must be pleased at the offer of a prize for the best essay on the feeding of undergraduates; and must hope that it will help to remedy the most unsatisfactory condition in the social life of the University. The students seem to have forgotten that gregarious animals and civilized men feed together, and that meals have a social as well as a nutritive value. Under the recent habit of eating around they are not aware of the pleasant hours, the interesting talk and the lifelong friendships that come from the club tables of former times. The University strove to maintain the opportunity for these things until the general preference for hasty meals in different places made it no longer possible; and it will strive to do so again as soon as a sufficient number of students will support it.
But to be useful the writers and judges of the essays must bear in mind that the object sought is a practical result, not a utopian solution of an imaginary problem. There is no use in proposing that Delmonico meals should be provided at Holly-tree prices, or in referring to the supposed success in other places of which there is insufficient knowledge. The Freshman Halls and the Union have been trying to give the best food they can for the price charged; and in the former a visiting committee of ladies has year after year reported to the Board of Overseers that it was good. Certain facts must always be taken into account--that there is a relation between the price paid and the dishes served; that no dining hall can be operated economically with less than its minimum number of constant patrons; and that after a time--usually about March or April--the food in any dining hall, however good, tends to seem monotonous.
Something has been said in the Crimson about a dietitian, and in fact we have had the advice in all our halls of the Professor of Hygiene. But while a specially trained dietitian may be even better qualified to direct the kinds of food needed for perfect nutrition, especially in a case of defective digestion, it is not so clear that he makes them more palatable or cheaper. These are the duties of the cook and the manager. In fact, an eminent physiologist has remarked that the most important factor in human nutrition is a good cook.
The authorities of the University have long been worried about the feeding of students, and are eager to promote every attempt to solve this important problem affecting their health and social life. The officers in immediate charge of these matters will be glad to give any information on the administrative or financial questions involved, in the hope that this inquiry will lead to valuable results. Yours very truly, A. Lawrence Lowell.
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