Reduction of living costs by doubling up on House rooms and dispensing with the daily maid service would put a dent in the high cost of a Harvard education, but not enough of a dent. The other major phase of living, the cost of meals, must also be reduced.
Last spring the question of the board rate was extensively investigated by a Student Council committee, which learned to its own mortification that it couldn't cut the price without making sacrifices. Either the students had to give up their privilege of signing for 14 and 10 meal contracts at a reduced price or they had to submit to a self service system, Both the Crimson and the Council recoiled horrified at the idea of the undergraduates sacrificing their rights and luxuries, and when the Council put the questions up to a College vote, the students voted against both measures. Only about a third favored the compulsory 21 meal rate and a mere 10 per cent liked the self-help system.
No one in the College last spring foresaw the urgent need for cutting costs that prompted the Administration to declare the board rate compulsory over the students veto. Today it is obvious that even an $8.50 rate will be to high in the hard days to come. Under the present system of service there can be no lower price. With food prices going up and with the labor market shifting in favor of the workers, it seems improbable that the Administration will be able to maintain it even next year.
The only alternative is the self-service plan suggested last year and turned down cold. Self-service would mean that a student eating in the houses would pick up his own food from a counter and carry it back to his table. It is not cafeteria style, for there would be no more choice of food than at present. It only means the abolition of the present system of waitresses and what paid busboys there would be might be student workers.
Naturally such a plan presents countless disadvantages. It is pleasant to be able to sit down and order one's food from a waitress, doing no work and eating in style. The dining halls will be distinctly noisier and far less enjoyable places to eat when one has to work for one's meal. But much as we take our present comfort for granted, we must wake up to the realization that the House dining room system as it is et up at present, is a luxury, like most of the rest of the Harvard living scheme. Luxury is all very well when it can be paid for, but the time is fast approaching when there will be few students with money to spare. This year a majority of the members of the Houses can certainly afford to pay for the privilege of being waited on. Whether that statement will be true next year is open to question. Eventually some scheme for the reduction f the board rate is inevitable; so far no better method than self help has been proposed. The entire undergraduate body as well as the Student Council must pick up where they left off last year and reconsider the advisability of adopting the plan for 1942-43. When they do they must remember that self service is not designed primarily to spare the pocket book of any one individual but as one move in the campaign to bring the price of a Harvard education down to a level that will not be prohibitive to the lowered incomes of the future.
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