All my life I have absolutely, unequivocally, adored salt. I once even embarrassingly stated that “salt is my favorite spice,” before remembering it’s actually a mineral (but hey, I’m not a science person so it’s all the same to me). As a freshman who constantly eats at the dining halls and is a bit of a food snob, I rely on salt for most of my meals. Now while this entire rant may seem entirely out of place and irrelevant to anyone but myself and my fellow salt-lovers, I was absolutely horrified to come back to campus after winter break to see that the salt shakers (as well as the pepper) were removed from the tables and moved to “flavor stations.” The change has appeared to be a result of the new healthy trends that the dining halls have been following and, while I appreciate and respect the considerable effort to provide students with healthy food options, I find myself still incredibly salty (no pun intended) that as a nearly twenty-year-old young adult I am not left to monitor my own salt intake.
However, despite my chronic laziness when it comes to extra effort, I can manage to get myself to get up, walk all the way over to the flavor station and salt my food before walking back to my table. My personal struggle aside, the salt fiasco led me to a bigger question concerning my time here at Cornell: how much freedom do we actually have to adjust according to our own personal tastes?
While I do care deeply about my salt, I think that the issue stems deeper than flavoring. There are many cases in which Cornell promotes daily alternatives, from shopping locations to housing, which are not necessarily as easy as advertised. For example, by moving the salt, Cornell restricts ease of access while still presenting the salt as an easily available option. In another instance, my friend, who unlike me has a passion for science, struggled to find a major that satisfied her widespread interests until she found Human Development. Transferring from the school of Arts and Sciences to the school of Human Ecology is definitely an option, but she found the process exceedingly demanding. With no simpler way to transfer, she now wonders if it is worth the stress. Simultaneously, she and I were interested in living on campus as sophomores next semester, but were unfortunately doomed with a terrible time slot for the dreaded housing selections. We were left with the options of either settling for an expensive dorm far away from our classes or looking for off-campus living; we chose the latter. That same week I bought a $10 binder at the Cornell store; instead of making the twenty-minute bus trek to Target to buy cheaper school supplies. I questioned the effort necessary for this seemingly easy cheaper option and took the Cornell-provided route merely because it was suggested, or even encouraged, by its ease and proximity.
While majors, housing, binders and salt appear unrelated, all the aforementioned events were in part orchestrated by suggestions from Cornell. Moreover, what really struck me about this series of events was not their posed predicament between laziness and personal preference but the fact that, in all of the discussed scenarios, the preferred option was technically possible but the solution either fell short or was more difficult to do despite how simple it initially sounded. While I understand that some of this happens because we are at a structured learning institution in a suburban area, it was eye-opening to see how our personal living preferences are limited, sometimes unintentionally. Is it just because we’re at a university with procedures that naturally pose these suggestions? Or does the occurrence of this phenomenon reach further than Cornell and appear in aspects of daily life? Just some food for thought (feel free to add salt).
Madeline Ugarte is a freshman studying English in the College of Arts and Sciences. Her posts appear on alternate Wednesdays this semester. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.