If you think back, way back, to the day you received your packet of information about student jobs, along with the slew of other pamphlets Harvard mails to entering students, you might recall a small card describing the job placement program for first-years. The program offers three choices: find your own job, work dorm crew or join the ranks working in campus dining halls.
Many students check the box for dining hall jobs, but only a handful actually end up serving food and washing dishes for other undergraduates.
Jeremy H. Burton '00 was one of the select few to show an interest in dining services, start work in the fall and stay in the kitchen. He spent his first year on dish duty, the buffet line and working the grille in Annenberg.
When Burton shed his first-year status, though, he also left his dining hall job behind. He is now employed as an office assistant in the department of physical resources. According to Burton, of the nearly 10 students who began the year with him in Annenberg only about four were left by year's end.
"It's not very glamorous," Burton says. "I don't want to be an elitist but that's what it boils down to."
Noel Rodriguez '99 had a similar experience. Rodriguez also worked first yeardining when she arrived on campus, first in the old Union and then in Annenberg, but has held a desk job in the Dunster House library since sophomore year.
Rodriguez cites the behavior of fellow students as a major deterrent to dining hall employment.
"The things that irritated me are probably not found as much in the upperclass dining halls," she admits. First-years, however, were prone to "stupid immature things like not bussing your own plate," Rodriguez says. "We would find cake in the napkin dispensers."
Considering the wealth of employment opportunities available on and off campus to students and the number of students who decide not to work for Dining Services (HDS) when they find out about these opportunities, it seems curious that the mailing to entering first-years specifically lists HDS. Martha H. Homer, director of student employment, stresses that the card does not claim that positions at HDS and Dorm Crew are the only jobs immediately available to arriving students.
"Admitted students get so much information that they probably don't read the booklet that the card is in," Homer says.
She maintains that the job placement program for first-years simply provides an easy way to match students in need of a job with two College agencies regularly seeking student labor.
"Some students get worried and feel better if they have a job lined up in advance," Homer says. "We just provide the program because it's a little bit of a hassle to get a job for yourself."
Behind the Scenes
In the recent past, although the numbers may drop from fall to spring, undergraduate dining halls report a steady group of student employees. Because payroll is computed by student work hours and not by the number of students paid, payroll officials cannot verify the actual number of employees but reports from dining hall managers indicate that about 20 students are currently at work in the dining halls.
Emily Buck '02, who works three hours a week in Adams House dining hall (alternating between washing dishes, doing laundry and serving food) says the job has definite perks.