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A dining hall in the form of a St. Andrew's cross on the present site of the Boylston Chemical Laboratory, with table d'hote service in three of the four halls, and a cafeteria-grill in the fourth, is the suggestion of A.H. Harlow Jr, '29, in the following essay, which won the third prize in the recent Crimson essay contest. Capable management, under a non-University direction, if necessary, is declared a panacea for most of the present dietetic ills.
A practicable University dining hall should be centrally located; it should be efficiently designed; it should be carefully managed.
The most convenient site for a new eating establishment is offered by the Boylston Chemical Laboratory property shortly to be left vacant by the transfer of the chemical department to the new building on Oxford Street. This location is the most desirable place in the Yard for a dining hall. It is easy of access from the Square, from the Yard and from the Massachusetts Avenue district. It is the heart of the Cambridge area occupied by Harvard. The property will be available for construction work during the coming summer.
The most efficient arrangement for a University dining hall is a building with four wings branching out from a central intersection area--a sort of St. Andrew's cross design. Variations of the plan, novel as it sounds, have been effectively adopted by several colleges. Princeton, for instance, has a pentagonal eating hall.
Kitchen Must Be Central
The kitchen should be located in the central intersection area, where it would be most convenient for service and for efficient handling of the food. Three of the halls branching out from this refectory department could be respectively devoted to the three upper classes of the College. The fourth wing could be converted into a combination cafeteria and grill, staying open later than the other branches of the establishment and serving a greater variety of food for men temporarily tired of table d'hote service.
This extra cafeteria department would overcome the one objection to a Common dining hall, the fact that a long period of eating in one place, no matter what the variety of the bill of fare, becomes monotonous. Then, too, students not desiring a hearty meal, could procure a few special dishes at such a place.
Charge Accounts Paramount
A most important requirement for this sort of dining hall, in my opinion, is permission by the College to let patrons sign slips for their meals, as at present is the practice at the Harvard Union. The same rule, of course should apply to the cafeteria. If it were found necessary for students to eat at least 17 meals a week at their tables in the class dining halls in order to make these branches financially feasible. I am sure that an arbitrary regulation to this effect would not meet with any objection. A discount should be made on this number or meals. In fact, the Union's policy in both these matters could be very closely followed.
It is a matter of general knowledge that the meals at Memorial Hall were poor. And that one fact has given rise to the present eating situation. If the Harvard Union itself were a regular restaurant, it would have gone bankrupt long ago. The dinner it serves for 90 per cents, for instance, can be surpassed by half a dozen restaurants near the Yard. If the service were good or the bill of fare attractively varied, it might be much more popular than it is, despite the poorly cooked food, but they aren't.
University Should Outdo Greeks
After all, it is somewhat absurd to think that the University cannot compete successfully with lunch counters and Greek cafeterias in providing for the student dining trade. These places are at present profiting hugely because they present a wide variety of food that is comparatively well prepared and not too expensive.
The little accessories to a meal are the things that should make a Common dining hall infinitely superior to the best of cafeterias. These accessories, for example, should be fresh bread, filtered ice water, small individual jelly services, hot rolls, clean table linen, intelligent service, and similar unaccustomed luxuries. These are the things that determine whether or not eating is to be pleasurable or a mere stowing away of fuel.
The atmosphere necessary to such a place should be both cheerful and comfortable, cleanliness is of course taken for granted.
If a Common dining hall is over expected to be successful, of course it must be managed with a reasonable amount of intelligence. At present the only reason why the cafeterias in the Square are patronized mere that the Union and the reason why they entirely weaned away the patronage of Memorial Hall is because they serve better meals at a cheaper price than the University establishments.
At present it is admittedly more healthful for the undergraduate to eat at the Union than to frequent the Square cafeterias: but it is evident that the Union refectory is unpopular with the student paiste. The plan for the intersecting dining hall gives University authorities a method of meeting old objections and of instituting a number of valuable improvements.
Such a hall, capably managed, if need be by a non-University organization, providing the important accessories to table d'hote fare enumerated above, offerings variety in its connected cafeteria, and alert to maintain a high standard both in the cooking and original quality of its food, is the sole satisfactory way for Harvard to wipe out its present dietetic defeat.
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