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Serve Yourself

By Ira E. Stoll

Hooray for self-service! Harvard Dining Service's new self-service pilot program, where students take their own portions of the food they want, is a victory for egalitarianism and efficiency.

The hiring of people to put food on our own plates seems a little outdated. I have no problem with going to a restaurant and being served a meal by a waiter. There's as much to gain from rendering good service as in receiving it. Yet being served three meals a day in what is essentially the kitchen of one's own house has the potential of reinforcing a whole range of class tensions and stereotypes that are probably best left unspoken.

More importantly, self-service is a boon for efficiency. The lines move faster. Students take as big or as small a portion as they really want, so less food is wasted and there's no need to get up from the table for seconds.

The workers who last year dished out portions--a repetitive, difficult task that requires standing over hot food for long hours--can now get out from behind the counter and spend more time fixing problems, refilling serving dishes and talking to students.

What's wrong with self-service? The sneeze guards aren't installed yet on both sides of the serving islands in some houses. But they're on the way, I'm told.

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