March 6, 2018

KANKANHALLI | Hungry For Justice

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The realization that most on-campus eateries are closed on weekends strikes me as a fresh blow every time I remember. Are we, the students, presumed to be fasting on weekends? Have weekends somehow still maintained their rosy reputations as periods of rejuvenation rather than periods of barreling anxieties? I don’t mean to speak for the entire student body, but I have a feeling that this bold claim carries a speck of universal truth: we’re still alive on weekends! We’re not hibernating, pleasant as that would be, and we’re absolutely in need of sustenance.

I walked in — before noon, I might add — to Duffield last Sunday, only to find that Mattin’s was gated tightly shut, cold and dark, uninviting to even the tiniest of creatures who might’ve scuttled in through the gaps. Of course, I won’t deign to say I only went to Duffield for the food; it was partially for the tables and ambiance, too. I was hoping, however, to avoid being cornered into spending unnecessary dollars on coffee or breakfast in Collegetown or elsewhere off campus.

Admittedly, recovering from this jolting discovery proved… manageable. I packed up my few belongings and drudged across the street to Mac’s, a haven for the famished, by the looks of it on that active Sunday afternoon. I had read that Mac’s opened at 2:30 p.m., so I laid my dignity to rest and was planted firmly in the salad line at 2:31 p.m.. It turned out that the wisdom in this decision exceeded my fantasies — at the payment counter, I was informed that Mac’s accepts BRBs until the ripe hour of 3:00 p.m.. In other words, I had the shield of 30 minutes, the safety of only an 1800 second window, to use my BRBs or be left to die. Well, maybe not left to die, but I’d have had to charge my credit card, which is arguably an equivalent sensation. Anyway, Terrace salads taste better.

In my gung-ho campaign for prevalence of food on campus, I won’t neglect the opposite end of the spectrum. A year ago, I was younger, wilder, and a resident of West Campus. Thankfully, my humble abode was not so humble as the Gothics; I lived in Hans Bethe House, and what others call Jansen’s Dining Room, I called my basement. This was the dream — around-the-clock access to food, easily secured following one swift descent of elevator. Except… it wasn’t around-the-clock access, not really. I could be rewriting history here, but I remember dinner hours ending around 7:30 p.m., often right as I was building up an appetite. If I did manage to make it in before 7:30, it was only fair for me to pocket 500 cookies to sustain me afterwards, as the night, along with my cravings, just began.

Synchronizing my schedule with Jansen’s soon became routine, so I have little impulse to harp on that now. Yet, a year later, I still have not been able to rationalize the House Meal Plans, mandated of all West Campus residents. The key feature of this Meal Plan is the alleged “unlimited access to meals.” Allow me to compose myself in challenging this point… WHAT?! The use of the word “unlimited” is impertinent. Anything unlimited, by virtue of definition, is exempt from limitations — this is untrue for dining halls, which are minions of not only specific timings but also certain favorable cuisines and diets. Furthermore, requiring students to subscribe to this nonsensical program would be comical were it not financial sacrilege. I can think of no human being who would ever need “unlimited” meal swipes — considering it cannot even be quantified. I doubt it is physically possible for one to actually reap the benefits. As such, Cornell’s attempt at keeping us fed (dare I say, well and nutritionally fed) grossly misses its target.

So, where does the money we pay Cornell go? The question has been posed countless times before — I’m sure Ezra Cornell himself fielded it a dozen times. It’s a question that has aged like fine wine (hey, is HADM 4300: Introduction to Wines open on weekends?). Does tuition finance a premier Ivy-League education? Yes, certainly, if you partake, but textbooks, iClickers and, sometimes, even course enrollment are not free with purchase. Does it include access to gyms? Nope, not unless you pay extra. Does it include parking, on the very same tar that we tread daily, uphill and down, in rain and snow? No, that’s also sold separately. Does it include eateries that operate on all seven days of the week? I guess this isn’t a charity.

I’m not just lashing out because I’m hungry, you all. I swear — adults don’t do that! It’s a real shame, the daylight robbery, that’s all, and I wish there were a way to resist without starving.

Priya Kankanhalli is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at Matters of Fact appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.