Major Changes Planned for Meals at Tarble

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Starting next year, students may no longer be able to exchange their extra meals for packaged goods like soda and chips from Essie Mae’s. In a major overhaul to the current system, Dining Services is considering changing the meal-point equivalence system to one in which meals can be used to purchase one of a set menu of meal options.

For example, rather than a dinner meal being worth $4.00 in points, students will be able to cash in their meal for a burger and fries, a sandwich and chips, or a veggie burger with sauteed vegetables, all of which come with a piece of fruit and a fountain drink. (The full set of menus is below.)

Dining Services is proposing the new system because they are losing money on packaged goods. Although Essie Mae’s is funded by Dining Services and is not an independent business, the cost of buying prepackaged food far outweighs that of other bulk purchases. [Correction: Essie Mae’s does not lose money on packaged goods, but instead these items cost more than the equivalent meals listed below. Effectively, this means that Dining Services requires a higher budget.]

The reduced flexibility of meals would be offset by an additional 15-75 points per semester, depending on which meal plan a student was on. Additionally, Essie Mae’s would stay open much later, and the new hours would be extended to include a “late dinner” meal option from 10pm until midnight.

Reactions to the proposed changes are far from enthusiastic.

David Pupkin, a junior who had spent his four dinner points on a bag of chips and a frozen fruit bar, rattled off a string of expletives when he heard about the proposed changes. “Sharples sucks enough as it is,” he said. “Now there’s no reason not to get the 14-meal plan.”

A passing freshman agreed, adding that according to his understanding of how Essie Mae’s is funded, he could “find no reason they should make this change in order to save money.”

Xiaoxia Zhuang ’10 was spending her dinner points on a sandwich, but also said that she didn’t think the change was a good idea. “I like the flexibility that the present options have,” she said. “[The new system] would be inconvenient for a lot of students.”

Despite these widely-held concerns about loss of flexibility, some see the proposed changes as a potential improvement. Student Groups Advisor Paul Apollo ’09 told fellow SBC members that the ability to get a square meal at Essie Mae’s was “what people have been asking for all semester,” and would be “a step in the right direction.”

Currently these changes to the point system are still in the planning stages, and any plan that is eventually implemented could look significantly different.

Head of Dining Services Linda McDougal was not available for comment at the time that this was written.

1. Bagel, fruit, beverage
2. Phoenix with sausage or bacon, beverage
3. Cup of cereal, fruit, beverage
4. Pastry, fruit, beverage

1. Sandwich, chips, beverage
2. Burger, fries, beverage
3. Garden or black bean burger, sauteed vegetable, beverage
4. Pizza, small Caesar salad, beverage
5. Fingers and fries, beverage
6. Caesar salad with chicken strips, beverage

1. Sandwich, chips, fruit, beverage
2. Garden or black bean burger, sauteed vegetable, beverage
3. Burger, fries, fruit, vegetable, beverage
4. Cheese steak, beverage
5. Wrap with chicken strips, beverage
6. Pizza, small Caesar salad, fruit, beverage

Late Dinner
1. Cold sandwich, chips, fruit, beverage
2. Pizza, small Caesar salad, beverage
3. Cereal, yogurt, fruit, beverage

Sandwiches include choice of bread, meat, cheese and toppings. Beverages are 12oz and include fountain soda or juice, hot tea, iced tea, or milk.


  1. It seems like there would be so much student opposition to this proposal that it won’t be implemented (at least not in this form). I don’t feel that this change is designed to get us square meals (the menu meals listed above are all essentially available now for around the cost of one meal). The change’s focus is saving money by not allowing people to spend 5 meals a week on Dizzy Dinos and Doritos.

    Keep Essie Mae’s open later by all means, but I for one need my Doritos and Dinos.

    p.s. Couldn’t Late Dinner include fries, since that doesn’t require the grill? Fries, Thursday nights at 11:50 pm = cure for Pub Night drunchies.

  2. This makes no sense at all to me. What the school needs is more flexibility in our meal plans, not less. Why not use meals at the snack bars, or use meals and points at Tarble interchangeably at all hours of the day? This move seems to be specifically structured to ensure that students spend less on food than they do now. Re: Apollo’s comment – I can get a square meal right now and am able to choose what I want, so why is there a need to change this? And why should Tarble tell me what that is?

    The meal plans and dining availability remain some of the most cumbersome aspects of Swat, and this move would make the system even clunkier. Most of my friends agree that an ideal system is one where you can use meals and points practically interchangeably at all hours of the day. For instance, being able to use a meal at Kohlberg Coffee Bar when they’re out of bag lunch and you need something quick, and there should be none of this ridiculous meal cut-off times for Tarble like 1-4 and 7-10, which for one doesn’t mesh with our class schedule, and furthermore just creates congested and inefficient lines at the beginning of these times.

    Though it might not be financially viable, a campus where we can use meals anytime, anywhere, should be the ideal we work towards, and the policy outlined in this article is a sure step in the wrong direction (although I applaud Dining Services for adding the much-needed late dinner option).

  3. I, for one, have very mixed feelings about this. I can understand, and actually very much appreciate, fixed menus for the addition of fruit and salad to meals, but I wish there was some flexibility. I also have some questions. Will the same sandwich topping limitations and extra fees be in place under this new system?

    I like my flexibility at Essie Mae’s and, if this system goes in place, I have the feeling I’ll miss it a little. While this new scheme may better articulate the idea of ‘meals’ than the current setup, the inability to utilize extra meals unused during the week (due to, most often in my case, cooking, for instance) to store some drinks or snacks for the longterm is pretty obnoxious. I guess that’s what those extra points are for, though. Good thing I’m on the 14 meal plan anyway, since I’m assuming it’s the beneficiary of the 75 extra.

  4. I was really upset when I first heard about meals not being used for packaged goods, but after reading this it doesn’t sound so bad. It’d be nice to get a full meal at Esie Mae’s. How many packets of Nemos do people really need?

  5. This sounds absolutely terrible. Snacks from Tarble don’t just tide people over in the late dinner hours but at 3am when you can’t even get a pizza delivered. And having snacks available on the meal plan seems the equitable thing to do – not everyone has a car to get to Wawa’s, since campus decided not to allow one here, or money to spend at the coop. I already take containers to Sharples sometimes to grab a soup or salad or sandwich for later, and I bet if they implemented this, more and more students would do the same.

    I regularly use extra meals to stock up on breakfast items like granola bars, yogurt and bottled juice that I then can grab and take to class with me. I wouldn’t eat breakfast under this new scheme, because there’s no way I’d get up and go to Tarble on my way.

    There is also significantly reduced flexibility in meal choice, which is fairly obvious, but nobody has pointed out how nonsensical the pairings are. Why can you get a salad with pizza only? Who decided that people buying veggie burgers would also want veggies, whereas people buying sandwiches would only want chips? THAT MAKES NO SENSE WHATSOEVER. What if you want a salad, veggies, and chips, or a sandwich and fries, or a burger with veggies? What about the delicious cookies?

    That a student council member would praise this makes me think he is drastically out of touch with the student body, as I can’t imagine many people will be happy with this.

  6. I really like these changes. I, for one, am someone who tends to eat a very large amount (which means I’m at Sharples for most of my meals). My average meal consists of two entree plates, two pieces of fruit, a glass of water, a bowl of salad and dessert (ice cream or a featured dessert). No, I am not an athlete, or overweight. I just tend to eat healthy foods in order to satisfy myself. This is why I love Sharples. However, when I can’t eat there, my only option is Essie Mae’s. For me, being able to get a good amount of calories into my system is a top priority, because without the right amount of the right foods I feel sleepy in class and my overall health (including a feeling of well-being) is drastically altered for the worse.

    With the current plan, I can get a sandwich and a drink, plus the so-so free chips that are allowed as part of a meal. With the new plan, I would at the -very least- be able to get a piece of fruit in addition to that, and a few extra meal points to boot.

  7. No, no, no. this is a horrible plan. Eff you, dining services, since everyone else just said it above me more eloquently. i don’t use my meals and the school is already bogarting that extra money, now i can’t even use it on extra snacks when i’m hungry and studying late at night? you greedy SOB’s. greedy, controlling SOB’s. also I totally agree with the “wow” comment. UGH!

  8. Agreed with wow on the nonsensicalitude of the food pairings. I suppose they’re adding fruit and vegetables to meals to encourage healthy eating, and with Revan I appreciate that rationale, but if that’s the case, can they offer more healthy options in general? All the packaged foods at Tarble except the kashi bars and Nemos (oh, and the ridiculously overpriced soy chips) are loaded with oil and sugar and chocolate.

    The way to encourage eating fruits/vegetables/other healthy things is by having more options (nature valley bars? fruit that isn’t available for free at Sharples?) – not by requiring us to by them if we just want a sandwich.

  9. I added this as a correction above, but:

    Correction: Essie Mae’s does not lose money on packaged goods, but instead these items cost more than the equivalent meals listed below. Effectively, this means that Dining Services requires a higher budget.

  10. THIS SUCKS. I have acid reflux, so I can’t drink soda OR juice from concentrate OR coffee. The teas and gatorade and stuff were the best part about Essie Mae’s! I’m not going to have any options now!

  11. What?? I thought the food options at this school sucked enough as it is! How is “less flexibility” more fair?

    As it stands now, past 10pm, there’s nearly no viable food option in Swarthmore. (ummm, Renatos? Cheng Hing? Lol)

    Come on Swarthmore, quit sucking at food. Proposals should be aimed at creating new food options, bringing a WaWa closer, etc. Not taking what already sucks (tarble) and making it suck even more (extra sucky tarble).

  12. IF this does go through, i agree with wow that Dining Services shouldn’t dictate what sides come with our entree. For example, instead of only pairing sandwiches with chips, Essie Maes could have a whole list of sides for us to choose from, just like Wendy’s.

    So you could choose between the entrees of sandwich, burger, cheesesteak, etc, and choose one or two sides from fruit, chips, fries, salad, etc.

  13. Well. Maybe consuming little bits of food that comes in all that packaging isn’t very environmentally smart. Taking containers to fill with cereal and grabbing extra fruit for those snacks or late meals is healthier and “smarter”. I agree that bratty is what I was thinking of many responses.

  14. I actually think that this wouldn’t be such a bad change. As it is now, you *can’t* get a square meal with the equivalency of $3.25 for lunch; I always end up having to use additional points to round out my sandwich with a drink and some fruit. And while it would be a little annoying not to be able to use leftover meals to get drinks, that’s what the additional points will be for. Overall, though, it sounds like changes have to be made one way or another if Essie Mae’s is losing money on pre-packaged food.

  15. I think the first priority for places like Tarble should be to have later open hours, considering there are no accessible late-night dining options around campus unless you have access to a car, so the “late dinner” option is exciting.

    Also, I agree with the general consensus that it’s a bad idea not to allow students to exchange extra meals for snacks. However, the forced square meal options may promote healthier eating habits, and this would not be such a bad thing. I think the importance of eating full meals is lost on some students. It’s not enough just to eat “healthy” food such as salad and granola bars to maintain a balanced diet, so as ridiculous as the square meals might sound at first, they would serve a good purpose if implemented.

  16. Well said, “also.” This is total BS. I’m absolutely furious. I can’t believe there was no survey of the student body or request for input about this decision.


  17. This is terrible. It was nice to able to get some snacks and stock up if I enjoy eating at random hours as opposed to only being able to get meals worth of, well, meal stuff.

    Why not just have “meal equivalent” options, but also include the option of getting 2-3- or 4 bucks worth of anything for a meal. This satisfies both camps and allows us to use the only freaking snack bar we really have.


  18. I find it profoundly ironic that this crap is dropped upon our collective noggin only one day after the infamous “nacho bar” was served at sharples. Is Dining Services trying to incite student riots?

    Flexibility is at tarble one of the few reasons that people put up with a Dining Services in clear need of major reform. Others have made this point well.
    BUT this goes beyond flexibility. This is about the absurd lack of good food or prepackaged goods in the entire vicinity of Swarthmore. If Tarble wont let me have my prepackaged chips and drinks, where the hel am I supposed to go? The coop does have a lot of stuff, is more expensive, and has quite limited hours. Short of expensive delivery food from Alfredos, SherePunjab, and Reynatos, these items are unavailbe anywhere else. This change takes a bad situation to ridiculous extremes.

    I’m a big fan of the later hours, but honestly, midnight versus 1030 wont make much of a difference, especially when the grill wont be on (which is itself ludacris). I’d much rather see 4:00 get extended to 4;30 so i can eat after class without having to go to sharples absurdly early.

    If Dining Services cant listen to our input and just implements this plan, which seems to offset whatever late-night benefits we’d get, I think it would be only reasonable that the bookstore stay open till 8 and sell a much larger variety of prepackaged food. In addition, since this plan depreciates our meals in terms of real purchasing power, I think allowing people to purchase 6 and 9 meals per week would be reasonable than giving us more points. if they really want to know how well this plan works, they should allow our market demand to be more elastic by allowing us to buy fewer meals at the start of each semester. Forcing us to purchase silly amounts of meals we dont use only serves to unite us in our grumbling about this.

    Btw, wouldnt it be cool if cafeterias here were open AT THE SAME TIME. gasp! maybe the competition would encourage both sharples and tarble to be more responsive to their customers.

  19. Would this mean you can’t double swipe at all? And does Dining Services realize that the current portion sizes are minuscule during Essie Mae’s dinner hours?

    The cheesesteaks especially are abominable. There’s a rule that the staff can only put one piece of steak on the roll, and any extra would induce the “extra meat” charge, but the problem is that that one piece of steak doesn’t even cover a third of the roll, and is in NO way filling. AND it is the most expensive thing on the menu. Biggest ripoff on campus, if you ask me. It makes Dining Services appear incredibly stingy–Consider, the evening staff began running out of steak more frequently, so, RATHER than buying more steak, Dining Services RESTRICTED the amount of steak the Essie Mae’s employees could put on a sandwich.

    Since when did Swarthmore start endorsing such a miserly policy?

  20. what if i want a chicken strips wrap for lunch? why does bryn mawr have 3 dining halls and their essie mae’s has ben and jerry’s ice cream, but swarthmore cant afford for me to spend my extra meal on soy crisps and a diet pepsi? and if you want students to be healthy how about making the gym an inviting, technologically updated place where people actually want to go? ugh this school’s approach to “fixing” things is so frustrating. i agree with vivaan. and also i love the black bean burgers, but the veggies are bland, overcooked lumps of semi-brown mush that i never want to eat and how dare linda macdougal assume i want those with my delicious burger? gross.

  21. Can you tell us the group who is responsible for these potential changes so we can all tell them how much this plan is not going to work out…at all. I think any college student can objectively see the impracticality of this.
    I don’t like to compare our dining services with other schools such as bryn mawr…but why does their version of essie maes serve packaged noodles and ben and jerry’s ice cream? If EM provided a broader selection of potential packaged meals, I’m sure students would spend their meals on…say canned soup over those strange tasting old bay potato chips. If they provided any beverages that contained 100% juice instead of all sweeteners and artificial flavors, maybe people would stop purchasing sodas…(I love Izzys btw…).
    I might like a sandwich with veggies… is that not an option anymore? and the fountain drinks are also unhealthy.
    People were upset at the last set of changes at EM b/c we want to be treated like adults, not be forced to choose from 4 different sets of meals like we did in elementary school. Actually, I’m mistaken. I believe in elementary school, I had healthier options and the choice to buy packaged goods if I wanted to.
    does this make life easier for the workers at EM? is that why we’re making changes? And extending hours to midnight isn’t going to help any. that’s when all delivery places close and for some strange reason, every night I get hungry past 1am, when every place is closed. If you’re going to extend hours, better extend it to 2am? wait, does that sound impractical? maybe we should just let students buy packaged goods!
    btw- I was at Brown University once and there was a pizza vending machine. $5 a pizza…and it was surprising really good!!! we should get some of those- I’m all for healthy eating but sometimes, a college student just needs pizza at 2am!

  22. This is awful!!! Why doesn’t anyone do anything about it? “Losing money”.. what does that mean? Who are they working for?

    Clearly there are some serious overheads in Dining Services, and we are all paying for it. Like just look at Sharples, there is so many staff.. there is even a guy who stands by the coffee area, just standing there doing nothing!

    Or in general this perverse logic of having to rip us students off consistently “to keep expenses down” on meals that we are all paying for.. things like the impermanence of weekly meals, the meal equivalences (a TOTAL rip-off), and that thing that they have to rely on students missing meals to be able to make up for the rest.. wtff???

    Seriously, we have to something about this.. Outsource dining services to a private company like every other school does, or something I don’t know.. But seriously our quality of life has gone down and down, even as tuition has been going up and up

  23. Why does Dining Services feel it is necessary to dictate the combinations of foods that students are able to eat? I agree with earlier posts about the need for much more flexibility in terms of hours and in food options, and while there have been small improvements over the past couple of years (extending the hours, etc.), this seems like such a step in the wrong direction. Students should not have to be forced to buy fries any more than they should be forced to buy veggies. That seems like it would produce even more waste — much as some of the items in bag lunches are wasted, so too would options that people don’t want. Given that Dining Services seems to be so focused on minimizing waste and extra costs, isn’t this completely counterproductive?

    Regarding the health issue and providing more “square” meals: discounting the fact that college students might indeed have some idea of what constitutes a “square” meal, how healthy are these options exactly? The caesar salad especially is notoriously unhealthy.

    Also, what about some of the other options like black bean wrap (not burger) or veggie wrap? What about extra toppings such as bacon or pesto? Are those going to cost more or be done away with entirely because they don’t “fit” into this “square” meal plan?

  24. I would like to point out that there is no only one gluten-free option (Caesar salad at lunch, assuming no croutons, a non flour-thickened dressing and that the chicken is not breaded) a student can get at Essie Mae’s (they offer no GF cereal) via the meal plan. I find this to be highly inconsiderate to people with food allergies.

    Just another reason why I should live off campus next year….

  25. This change seems to be an attempt to fix two problems:

    1. That dining services’ budget is perceived as too large, and
    2. That students complain it is hard to get a balanced meal at Essie Mae’s under the meal equivalency program.

    The plan does partly address the second problem by making it possible to buy, say, a cheesesteak AND a drink, whereas a cheesesteak currently costs $4, the allotment for dinner. But, if they make it difficult for students to tailor their own meals to their liking, Dining Services will only replace one source of discontent with another. So this is a mediocre solution to that issue.

    As for the first problem, if there has to be a cut in Essie Mae’s budget, and if packaged foods really are a significant cost, then it makes sense to limit the amount of non-nutritous food — i.e. potato chips and TastyKake — that students can buy under the meal plan. If that means making it so that we can only buy our Twinkies with points, fine. But making healthy meals less flexible is a step backwards.

  26. Actually, I don’t know if I’d mind the change, so much, because they are giving us extra points to compensate; many people don’t take advantage of their points enough, resulting in lots of unspent points at the end of the semester.

    Also, I do think the extended hours will help, because then we can get food without having to pay extra for cheng hings, etc. My main problem is that there is only one vegetarian option (what happened to the tofu wrap anyways?) that is exactly the same for lunch and dinner. I’d like to see burger, fruit and beverage for dinner.

    Another problem is that the breakfast option won’t let students buy yogurt.

    I like the late dinner options, but the problem is that there are no cold vegetarian sandwiches available, so I, as a vegetarian, don’t actually benefit that much. Essie Maes really needs to get on more vegetarian variety, so I don’t spend four years eating either a black bean or a veggie burger.

  27. If our students (including I) think that the meal plan is so unreasonable, why are we not allowed to opt out of the meal plan if we live on campus?

    Using three meals a day at Tarble on our own money, we’d spend $2400/yr. Using three meals a day at Sharples on our own money, we’d spend $4020/yr. It’s cheaper than the meal plan.

    Does the administration know that? I’m sure they do. Hm..

  28. This is why we should go to, as many colleges do, an all points system. Convert all of these stupid “meals” into points, have a system through which we can put buy points periodically, and have sharples cost points instead of these damn arbitrary “meals”. And goodness Swarthmore, I refuse to believe that the crap they serve in sharples is really breaking the bank. If my public high school, on a tiny fraction of Swarthmore’s budget, can do this for 3000 students (admittedly only breakfast and lunch), I don’t think Swarthmore should find this so difficult.

  29. Happily for me I will not be relying on dining services next year, but for those who will I would like to apply some facts to this issue so hopefully students can be better advocates for their own health and for the sorry state of dining services.

    Cost of Board for the 2007-2008 Academic Year:

    Swarthmore: $5,272
    Haverford: $4,950
    Bryn Mawr: $4,724

    Anyone who has eaten at all three colleges will notice a strange inverse pattern at work here. How is it that in the opinion of most people Bryn Mawr has the best food in tri-co but charges $548 less per student per year than Swarthmore, which has the worst dining options hands down??? Are there differences between the campuses that could explain away these discrepancies? Seeing as we have three similar institutions of similar sizes in the same metro area I don’t see what legitimate reasons there could possibly be. And despite Swarthmore’s ridiculous requirement that students living on campus buy our overpriced and deficient meal plan (presumably because dining services needs all students to subscribe to be viable), Bryn Mawr does it with approximately 100 less students on campus!!

    There’s no question that dining services is hugely inefficient and despite paying enough money to have a very good program instead we pay more to be frustrated and comparatively unhealthy. However, there is a lack of political will to change things. If there’s ever going to be any, it needs to come from the students. It may be convenient for the administration that our institutional culture normally keeps students much too busy with academics to spend much time thinking about or working to change its functioning, but by we’re only hurting ourselves by letting things go on this way.

    When it comes down to it, Bryn Mawr has to compete for students with a full range of offerings including student quality of life. Because of its unique and singular academic offerings, Swarthmore has been able to get away with letting non-intellectual/cultural aspects of student life (such as food and housing) fall by the wayside. But this is a short sighted and deficient way to run a college, because happy, healthy students learn more and are more likely to be loyal to the institution later in life. I don’t believe our rate of alumni giving is low just because so many people go into low paying careers of service – I am convinced it is also at least partly the result of the administration’s failure to adequately address quality of life issues like dining services. These things may seem small but we live here day in and day out and after a couple of years a great many small slights add up to a greater resentment or sublimated malcontent. The sense of frustration and malcontent lives on and colors people’s feelings towards the institution even after they graduate and even after all the no-so-good memories have been glazed over with the soft-focus, rose-tinted brush of nostalgia.

    The college really needs to reevaluate the importance of dining services and student life: You can’t have intelligent thought without taking care of the bodies that support it.

  30. What does dining services need more money for? Are they going to buy fruit palatable enough to make me give a damn that a piece of fruit is now included in a meal?

  31. Every one of the meal options contain gluten. People like me who cannot consume foods with gluten in them (wheat, some meats and cheeses, or anything contaminated) are seriously screwed. I rely upon my fruit juice, yogurt, Kozy shack pudding, and moutain dew–none of which are a part of the meal options.

    Also, since when does Tarble get to decide exactly what we put in our mouths? I, for one, would rather a healthy salad (read: not a caeser) over pizza, a sandwhich, a burger, or God knows what else. Why does dining services feel that they can determine what is a meal that college students will want to consume? Why do they get the choice over us? After all, when was the last time any one saw Linda McDougall at Tarble or in line at sharples?

    This is infuriating and positively terrible for those of us who can’t eat just anything.

  32. Great –– so now our only source of caffeine is the weak coffee at Sharples and the fantastic coffee at the Daily Grind. Awesome.

    We can see here that Dining Services is not only moving to a more inferior plan, but is also trying to hinder our academic work as well. Fanfreakintastic.

  33. This is extremely frustrating. There have been many times where I just want a water and some pretzels for dinner and it is ridiculous that dining services has to limit our meal options even more. We already only have one dining hall and limiting our options at Essie Maes is only hurting the Swarthmore campus. If the administration is reading this, please do a survey of students and to see just how negatively this change would be received.

  34. Student Council, this is your wakeup call. Clearly no one wants this change. Do something, please?

  35. My theory on this is that they actually want to reduce utilization of the meal plan, because even if they’re not losing money on packaged items, they’re still not making as much as they would if half the people on the 17 meal plan stopped spending 3 of those meals.

    Also, I totally don’t trust Swarthmore to create packaged meals. They have a tendency to put loads of empty carbs, mayonnaise, and other dietary disasters even into things that are supposed to be the “healthy” option.

    There are few, small benefits to this plan, mainly that it does partially address the issue of meals not being enough money to get anything substantial. We probably just need to put some more serious funding into food services.

  36. This has got to be the most comments any article has ever drawn on The Gazette. I, for one, have been totally fed up with the Dining Services here for a very long time. I’ve never seen anything wrong with any individual employee, but when Linda McDougal tells me that “if there was any way to make it better we would have already done it,” I know that there are serious issues. Amanda Winters has really hit the nail on the head – we all came here because Swarthmore is an extremely elite academic institution, and we’re not going to leave because the food sucks or the dorms are falling apart. The school simply has no incentive whatsoever to improve things beyond the absolute minimum, and they’re just taking advantage of our meekness.

    I bet most students feel that to make a huge issue out of our food or housing would be selfish and stupid in light of the bigger issues in the world. But as a graduating senior, I hope that the student body does what my classmates haven’t done in our time here and takes the administration to task. There’s something seriously wrong with Dining Services, and it just doesn’t make sense that it can’t be fixed. At least give us a clear breakdown of where it is broken, and then we can find the damn solution ourselves if no one in charge is capable of doing so.

  37. The food situation at Swarthmore is completely rediculous. For one, how many meals go unused each month by students simply because they cannot use more than 2 meals per meal period each day? How much saved “money” does this add up to for Dining Services? I know over my period of time at Swarthmore, I have paid for 17 meals per week and used about 12-13 per week. Where does all of this saved money go???? I for one will not donate a single dollar to Swarthmore as an Alumni until this dining services bullshit gets fixed. There is absolutely no reason that we should pay for meals we DO NOT USE and have them not carry over from week to week. Why is there no option for a chunk of meals (200?) per semester?????

    Editor’s Note: Please refrain from using excessively vulgar language. Thanks!

  38. To keep it short and simple (I just want to post to add the emphasis already given by others), this is utterly ridiculous. Essie Mae’s right now is a decent option to avoid the horrible Sharples food. I don’t want a beverage with my sandwich. Let us eat what we want, not what you think we want. Like the above poster said, students waste so many meals because the system already sucks. Dining services needs to get better, not worse. It is bullshit that they can’t afford to keep it the way it is.

  39. Hmmm…

    I once heard one of the women in admissions, when someone asked how Swarthmore reacted to people who asked why Swarthmore didn´t have all sorts of fancy, apartment-style senior dorms like other similar schools, respond that she always said that it´s understood that the dorms are perfectly nice, but what really matters is the people in them. I love that Swarthmore thinks about things that really count, making Swarthmore equal for everyone, and in two Quaker fashion, doesn´t go overboard with things that don´t make a huge difference. Making the meal plan a requirement means that no one´s skipping meals to lower their Swat bill. I don´t think anyone at Swat has ever gone hungry or been forced to digest anything too disgusting. We´re lucky that the administration pays attention to make sure our basic needs are met…we´re lucky, for example, that we don´t pay for printing, which students at most other schools do.

    So normally I don´t understand all the complaints about dining. And I see the advantages to the new system, which would focus on giving people a MEAL rather than four dollars with which they sometimes can´t put together a square meal. However, there is one thing I would sorely sorely miss about the new plan: the ability to have breakfast without going down to Tarble or Sharples!!! For those of us who don´t have morning classes (most Honors students), it´s a lot easier to have a quick bowl of oatmeal or cereal in your room and head straight to McCabe rather than taking out a half hour or more to go to Sharples/Tarble. Under the current system, with an extra meal or two you could get plenty of oatmeal packets or cereal to last you the week. With the new system, you are food-less unless you physically go to Tarble or buy food yourself.

    Another drawback to the new system: many students like to have snacks in their room. I don´t know how much having snacks is a privilege Swarthmore wants to support, but it supports a lot of other seemingly superfluous privileges, so I´ll say this: snacks can be expensive. Some students have the “pocket money” to spend on them, some don´t. When you are able to buy packaged food with meals, it evens out the playing field. By the same token, having Tarble open late will lessen the late-night pizza expense.

    So my question is, will Tarble still stock packaged foods that students can use the extra points on? Or will Tarble become an eat-now-only place.

  40. This is really bad news. I agree with all the negative comments above. I really wish Isaac Sorkin and Henry Swift were still here so they could write a column in the Phoenix detailing with this is a bad economic decision. I personally believe that there should a Justice Department investigation of Dining Service’s use of monopoly power to reduce consumer choice and effectively lower our real wages.

    I think the underlying problem is that the administration of the college is content with Swarthmore being an elite academic institution, and nothing else. We do have amazing professors and classes here; I can’t argue that point. But at times, like when this decision is made, it seems like the choice is to provide as little as possible to keep us all from transferring away to an institution that at least acts like it cares about student’s life outside the classroom. My brother went to Williams, so it is the college I know best outside of Swat. They seem to put a much larger emphasis on student life and well-being than they do here at Swarthmore. In my opinion, they provide better food, housing, and public spaces for students than Swarthmore, and this is reflected in graduation and retention rates (which happen to be categories included in the US News rankings…). For food, not only is board less ($4,660 per year for 21 meals per week), but there are options in meal plans, and they have 8 different dining halls/snack bars to choose from on campus. Their housing system is also better, in that it lets people choose to live in “groups” of up to six people in the lottery, and 75% of non-freshman live in single rooms. While we have blocking, it would be nice if those who didn’t get a block still had a chance to live together. As for public spaces, Williams just built an amazing new student center at the center of campus. We have all of these random little places to meet strewn about campus (Parlors/Shane, Commons, Kohlberg Coffee Bar, Game Room-but that doesn’t really count, dorm lounges), but wouldn’t it be nice if there was a central student center that a large group of people could meet comfortably? Williams manages to do this while maintaining excellent academics, and other culturally enriching resources, like an Art museum and a new theater and dance center. This commitment to student life really shows on each college’s respective admissions website: Williams has an easily found section on student life, and Swarthmore does not (academics is at the top of the menu).

    Don’t get me wrong, I have personally enjoyed my time at Swat very much, and many wonderfully opportunities here. I just think the administration could do a much better job of providing services that make LIVING here a more pleasurable experience. When a decision is made that directly effects the well-being of students without any input from the larger student body, and is made solely based on dollars and cents, how can we believe that the administration has the student’s well-being at heart?

  41. p.s. – I got my data about graduation and retention rates from each school’s Common Data Set, and all other information from Objective comments are based on talking with my brother and personal visits to the Williams campus.

  42. If the problem is that students can’t get a square meal for the amount of money the meal equivalences are (which is considerably less than guests have to pay for a meal at sharples if they aren’t on the meal plan, so maybe not so equivalent), why not raise the amount of money students get per meal equivalency to something greater than the $2.25, 3.25, and 4 amounts we currently have??

    I also don’t understand how buying packaged goods and selling them for higher requires a larger budget on the part of the dining hall when they can make all of that back each year. Where does all of our tuition board money go? Pasta bar? Other schools have viable dining halls that offer more quality. It doesn’t add up to me.

  43. henry said everything that needs to be said, swat does not give us a life outside the classroom, it’s sad cause swat is a great place, but wea re all fucking depressed from work all the time and there are no places to enjoy it. the one place on campus where all the students can be on campus is sharples and it is a dungeon. i mean the lights are so bad, throw a skylight in that place and save energy as well as let some life into that place. also at sharples our supposed meeting place you cant even meet there b/c it is not designed so that everyone can be there at once! lunch at 1235 good luck. it is time for a revolution.

    join the facebook group where we can ll share ideas and discuss the changes we can make. some are so small but would be so easy…check it out

  44. Well I don´t know, I think Swat puts quite a lot of thought into our overall well-being. I don´t think having six dining halls necessarily improves the quality of your social or gastronomical experiences…

    I really believe that having one dining hall unites our campus in a big way. We know each other more and we are less cliquey because of only having one real dining hall. With multiple dining halls, there start to be larger patterns of people who move in their own groups at specific eating places…of course that happens at Swat too, but with only two places, you´re more likely to casually eat with someone, or bump into someone and talk to them on line, etc.

    And as for having groups of up to six people live together: I just had a long conversation with someone from Hamilton College, where they let multiple people live together through the housing lottery. But it´s a popularity contest, because one number can pull in six people. That´s absolutely not fair, just because you happen to be someone who is not part of a large group or you don´t happen to have a friend who would want to pull you in does not mean you should be dropped to the bottom of the list when people with numbers just as bad as yours are being pulled into blocks at the lottery. I don´t know how Williams system works, but I do think that making large groups of friends rampant in college housing could seriously damage the residential experience at Swarthmore, which right now is very open and welcomes new friendships, rather than having people just roll with their own group. I think that many of these decisions are thought through to allow for maximum equality and avoid cliquey-ness among the students. Like that our dorms are mixed all four years, that they aren´t divided along interests, etc.

    So I think it´s a huge mistake to say that Swarthmore only cares about being an elite academic institution. Anyone who has seen Myrt and Martin judging Willets Idol or Mr. Swarthmore at 11:00 PM on a Friday night knows that they care about a lot more than just how well we do as students. I would say the same thing about various aspects of the administration: we have many administrators whose jobs have little if nothing to do with academics: Paury Flowers, the activities coordinator, Dean Henry, who works with gender issues, Dean Smaw, in multicultural affairs (along with Rafael Zapata, the three religious advisors, and various others), all of CAPS, and of course Liz and Myrt. And those are examples just off the top of my head. All of these people have positions that contribute to our outside-the-classroom experience, which is not only measured by how we eat and socialize. I don´t think the sort of blocks we have or the number of dining halls or how fancy our student spaces are compares to the tremendous time, money, and attention the administration clearly puts into our well-being. If you are looking for evidence, just look to any of the people I listed above. Swarthmore isn´t pinching on student life. On the contrary, they are pouring tremendous amounts of resources into it, and with the various student committees involved, I would say they have also been listening to students. After all, this entire switch was started because students had been complaining about not being able to get a good meal at Tarble.

  45. i am all for having one dining hall on campus b/c it is the only place you get to see everyone, b/c it is the only place big enough where everyone can go, if there was a common i would go there and see people there

    furthermore, we have ONE BAD dining hall, other places have EIGHT GOOD dining halls, shouldn’t we then have one amazing dining hall? at least one that could fit everybody. Sharples is a pain b/c it gets too crowded. i dont want to socialize while standing in line for food. cut the line by twenty minutes and i can spend that time talking with other people.

    give the dining hall to the students and i guarnatee that place would be way better and people would want to utilize it rather than having to go to sharple people get to and want to go to sharples. how depressing is it when you are studying fo rfinals and the one place you go out of the library or your room is sharples, c’mon Swat. Who engineered that place and what did they have against windows? it sucks going from windowless mccabe to windowless sharples.

    c’mon at least we can have one good dining hall that meets the needs of the students rather than being a constant thorn in everyones side. i have learned over the past three years we shouldnt dont have to live with thorns in our sides. lets look on the bright side is not a good view for something that you live with everyday. you cannot deny that sharples could be better. you cannot deny that swat life could be better. so why do we have to look on teh bright side when we can create the bright side?

  46. I absolutely think Sharples could be better…but I think before people rush to tear apart Swarthmore´s system and say they could do it better, they have to have fully considered the situation. Some people think Sharples is a terrible, windowless building with bad food. Some people think Sharples is a wonderful, warm building with rather nice windows and pretty views and food that is perfectly fine. It would be a gross overstatement and one-sided view to say that Sharples is universally loathed. Many, many students on this campus have very positive opinions about Sharples, and many people consider the food at Sharples to be quite good compared to other dining halls. We need to think more carefully about what is fact and what is opinion.

    Like I said, it could be better and it sounds like the entire switch that Dining Services is planning in Tarble comes from the StuCo initiative to create square meals in Tarble in response to student complaints that they could only get junk food at Tarble. Obviously many students are unhappy with the proposed change. This is the time to thank our lucky stars that we have a small independent Dining Services who will listen and cater to our needs rather than a large corporation running our Dining Services, which most schools whose dining halls everyone praises have. Dining Services is working with students, which isn´t something that should be taken for granted.

  47. I would just like to bring up something that is missing from both of Quaker Values’s comments: consensus.

    As I understand Quakerism, one of its constitutive values is the ideal of consensus. (If I am wrong on this point, just make believe you don’t know I’m wrong while you’re reading the rest)

    To talk about equality without consensus is nonsensical.

    Consensus is what is supposed to make Swarthmore a community. Up until recently, the college valued that by hosting WEEKLY collections at which students could question the administration about its policies. Other Quaker schools, eg BMC and HC, sometimes use an even more radical form of collection, requiring all college activity to halt until something like 3/4 of the students is at the collection. We get 2 collections in 4 years, and they are only of symbolic value. Where is the accountability, the transparency, the ethical intelligence?

    In my time at Swat, the college has made several big decisions without so much as hosting a question and answer session, let alone seeking consensus. Some of the decisions have been positive (living wage and, arguably, though I don’t care either way, kick coke), but even these mocked the ideal of consensus. I don’t have an insider’s perspective on the athletics cuts, but the recurring complaint I hear from pissed alumni isn’t so much that football was cut, but that it was cut without consensus and after a commitment to the team had been made a year earlier.

    Recently there have been 3 major changes (that I can think of) cutting pre-orientation, going loan-free, allowing gender neutral housing. All of these have good reasons behind them in principle and (for the last two, i’d say) in practice, but discussion was limited and unpublicized (unless I’m forgetting). If we are a Quaker school, we should talk things out, like Quakers do.

    I’m not trying to suggest that the administration should have to get student consensus on decisions. But if Swat wants to claim it still has even the slightest bit of Quaker values, the administration needs to bring the ideals of consensus and collection to the fore.

    Given the overwhelmingly negative response to the proposed Tarble changes, and the largely negative feelings about Dining services in general, let’s just hope the administration invokes the RIGHT Quaker values (consensus and collection) and not simply the fluffy egalitarianism preached by “Quaker Values” (the poster), because that’s all well and good, but it won’t give us the caffeine buzz we need to study for finals, quell those post pub-night munchies, or fill our bowls with a highly nutritious breakfast.

  48. bottom line____if people didn’t hate Sharples so much they wouldn’t go to tarble, and then people wouldn’t be complaining about tarble,

    it could be a student council initiative or w/e maybe thats the problem stuCO isn’t goint ot the source of the complaining about tarble, let’s go to the real reason why people are angry at the tarble meal plan switch…because they hate sharples, give people one good option and they can’t complain about the other bad one, give people two bad options and well we have seen what happens

  49. I think that we have to be careful when we say there is limited transparency and student involvement on decisions.

    Student Council works very hard to make their activities transparent: from e-mail updates to weekly newsletters, a frequently updated bulletin board, and the weekly complaints and questions drop box in Sharples, their efforts to hear the student body´s opinions and communicate their activities are fairly large. I´m not in Student Council. But I have taken advantage of all of those information and communication opportunities and I respect that they exist. Student Council works closely with the administration, so anyone who has been active in the Student Council process as a lay-person so to speak, does have that representation.

    And that´s only student council. There have been countless fireside chats on topics such as gender, housing, and financing college. The decision to cut pre-orientation was made after endless discussions with the student body and the administration via the Orientation Committee. In fact, most decisions you mentioned were due to the work of student committees. Committees which anyone can apply for and which are chosen by an appointments chairs/committees elected by the student body (I do think the appointments process could be better, but that´s an aside).

    Kick Coke was also entirely student-initiated. And I´d be very surprised if anyone, after attending every single education session they held, read every letter and flyer they sent, attended every demonstration on Parrish beach and heard what they had to say, would still say that the decision had very little transparency. Similar groups of students were involved in decisions such as gender neutral housing and living wage. All of these groups were composed of students and all of them made their activities as public as possible. If you didn´t attend these activities and read about them in the paper, there´s very little that can be done about that.

    So there are infinite opportunities for students to be involved in major decisions on the campus. Reading the Daily Gazette is not a bad start. Unless you ran for every committee you were eligible for, read every StuCo newsletter and bulletin board posting, submitted your complaints to them at Sharples tabling, attended every fireside chat with the administrators, wrote letters when they were necessary, attended student activists´groups education sessions and demonstrations, it is a bit much to say that you weren´t given a chance to speak your voice on these issues.

    And as for collection–do you really regret that there is no longer a collection of the entire student body every Friday? The decision to end that was not imposed by a big bad student hating administration. It was a response to student complaints (and lack of attendance) at being forced to show up anywhere. Students felt that they were adults and should not be required to attend morning assembly.

  50. Screw this, it’s time to hire a new Head of Dining Services. We had the mint fiasco a month or two ago, and now this? Linda McDougal sucks and she’s only getting worse.

  51. Thanks Vivaan, I think you´re absolutely right, there´s a lot to be found out, such as the opinions of the student body on the food and social experiences of Swarthmore dining, and what services students consider worthwhile spending money on. Because while we all (with good reason) are concerned about the cost of board, I am assuming changing some of the things people complain about could mean higher operating costs…although like Vivaan said, we have to find out.

    Not to be forever siding with the “adults”, but this is absolutely not an appropriate time for unfounded verbal attacks about Linda McDougal. She is one woman who runs what is undoubtedly one of the only truly independent Dining Services in the country by herself.

    Which leads me to some possible answers to Vivaan´s proposed ideas about what the problems with Dining Services could be, if they aren´t (as I think we can all agree) the administration and Dining Services people being any of the many negative things they have been called on this forum. One striking difference between Swat and every other school is that we have Swarthmore College Dining Services, other schools have any one of several large companies that cater to dining halls. I assume there are some pretty well-thought through reasons for this: the obvious things that come to mind are that their decisions theoretically should be (and are) more transparent, we can work with them for change, and we can be assured of more ethical practices in how they are run. But that also must mean that our dining is going to be different than from other schools. So I guess Vivaan is right, we need to find out why Swat Dining Services is so different from other schools´ food companies, what limitations versus what pluses that brings.

    And with all the complaints…this might be a great time for someone to ask the administration or Dining Services for a really careful look at how our board money gets spent…maybe that´s something the Gazette or the Phoenix want to take on. Given that we have Linda McDougal, the woman herself, on campus, I´m sure she´d be happy to discuss these questions.

  52. Just a couple of points…First, there is no need to totally diss Sharples. They do have a fairly large variety of food for a school of our size. Yes, it can get old after a while, but you can certainly get a well balanced meal, and there are plenty of options that taste good. And there are a variety of ways to become creative with your food. There are plenty of schools that have better food. Bryn Mawr is certainly one of these places. You do have to realize though that you cannot compare Swat to a larger school that has eight dining halls; that is not a realistic comparison. Furthermore, I ate at Haverford’s dining hall a couple of years ago on several occassions, and I would say that Sharples food tastes better and is better in terms of variety compared to Haverford.

    I think the new plan for Tarble has some good and bad points. It is very difficult to get a complete, well balanced, and filling meal at Tarble the way things have been in the past. Allowing for fruit to be part of a meal, for example, is a step in the right direction. On the other hand, I feel that there should be more options and combinations with realistic meals. For example, perhaps a small salad or a yogurt could substitute for fries. And there certainly should be options for people with specific dietary needs.

    As far as getting rid of the option to use your meals to buy snacks and other things, I can see how students are not happy since they are used to more flexibility. I used to love saving up my meals and stocking up on chips and other snacks. On the other hand, meal plans can include “points” and “meals,” and if dining services does not want to consider chips and salsa for your seminar break or soy milk (and nothing else) meals, I think they may have a valid point. There are points available for these other things. I personally still like the idea of being able to have snacks, but I can accept the argument that snacks are not a meal.

  53. Yeah, leave Linda McDougall alone. She’s probably looking to StuCo for student input/voice, and so if you don’t like the proposed changes, it makes more sense to talk to StuCo than to curse her for not being in touch with what students want… that’s StuCo’s job. They’re supposed to represent us to people like her, and if we don’t think they’re doing an adequate job of that, then we should be leaving comments in the comment box and writing letters to YJ and all that.

    Also, I just want to ditto everything Quaker Values has been saying. Vivaan too.

  54. People we all came to swat for a reason, many of us b/c we knew of the academic standards and the ittllecutal and unique campus life. all the the comments against sharples and other places is not an attack on the ideology of swat.

    it is however clear that sharples and tarble need change. sure we can get creative w/ our food there are healthy options (unless appetizer bar falls on the same day as sausage bar, or fired fish bar, or open sandwich and fries bar), but the salad bar is good. look, why do we have to get creative. you pay someone to do that for you. i am abroad this semester and have had to cook on a budget all year. and I realized many of the meals i eat could be prepared w/ what sharples provides. However what is the point of a dining hall if I have to make the food. The point of a dining hall is to eat with other people and spend time doing that not cooking.

    I like some of the comments people have been making defending sharples, but there is a difference between saying “Hey sharples is good, YOU could make your own food, YOU could talk to this Linda, YOU could suggest recipes” and this “Sharples HAS this food, Sharples DID this for me, I didn’t have to worry about creating my own meal, b/c it was already there”

    The major difference is the responsibility. Should the students be responsible to create their own meals, or should the dining hall be responsible? I agree I can cook a great meal, but then why do I pay Sharples. I could do that in my dorm with my own ingredients.

    The argument against that may be “well some like sharples and some don’t and those that dont YOU can make it better by cooking YOURSELF” Do you realize where this places the blame?–This places the blame on the Swat student for not being able to coexist with Sharples. When the blame should be on Sharples who clearly does not satisfy many many of the Students.

    In other words it doesnt meet the needs of the student body which is its ultimate purpose. Those who argue for Sharples cannot disagree it could be better, and in small ways. If Bryn Mawr’s food is good, why can’t sharples get recipes from them? It boogles my mind how so many people can be dissatisfied with Sharples and have it still be the same as it was 3 years ago, aside from one organic meal (that was actually good).

    At Swat we are usually responsible people, we have to be to tackle the amount of work we do on a regular basis. But when it comes to food it should not be our responsibility to ‘live with’ Sharples. If it is supposed to be the meeting place that the admissions board touts it to be then Swat should want to get people there by making it better.

    Like I said earlier people go to tarble because they have a strong dislike for Sharples. Now when Tarble changes people become angry. Well if we solve the Sharples issue not only will we start actually living up to the Quaker ideals that we profess (which I like in many ways; I like the one main dining hall idea) but if people never eat there, it doesn’t matter if there is one dining hall or eight. It is time to address these issues so they don’t plague students for the years to come.

  55. “it sounds like the entire switch that Dining Services is planning in Tarble comes from the StuCo initiative to create square meals in Tarble in response to student complaints that they could only get junk food at Tarble.”
    -Quaker values

    Now, we can only get junk food at Tarble. Next year, with these changes, we will still only be able to get junk food at Tarble. They took away the Everfresh juice and now, as has been pointed out in previous comments (though not nearly enough of them), the only healthy food available is a tiny bit of fruit that generally tastes pretty bad. The solution to our only being able to get junk food at Tarble is not to stock so many TastyKakes, so many different kinds of chips, of 15-25% “juice,” soda, fake pastries, etc, and bring in a few things that are at least remotely healthy and appealing. Let’s see how Williams does it, how Bryn Mawr does it, and then try to understand why we are so far behind these two schools.

    As for other quality of life issues, I have been screwed two years in a row in the housing lottery. I fail to understand why our lottery system is so ancient–how many other school still have paper lottery cards, and live lotteries? How many of them leave a quarter of the rising sophomore class and maybe 15% of the rising junior class a waitlist for housing? How can we build two brand-new dorms in four years and still have so many people dying to live on campus who can’t? Still have dorms that are lifeless because most of the people who live there hate it there (Mary Lyon)? How is it so difficult to live near your friends?

    Swarthmore runs in a league of schools that aspire to be perfect. The better ivies, the top-notch liberal arts schools, and the best state schools (Berkeley): despite how different they are, each will tell you when you visit that it has the “best of both worlds,” that it has cultural life and privacy, academia and sports, variety and quality in all aspects of the school. Each tries to come off as perfect, desperately trying to keep up with the others whenever one tries something new (like going loan-free), always with a new construction project going on, always improving. The admissions workers have to be able to answer all your questions and leave you with a feeling that nothing is lacking at the school. When you run in this league, to leave so many of your students unsatisfied with such important aspects of their lives as housing and food is a failure. Admissions won’t be able to keep that from prospective students for long, and pretty soon we’ll find we’re no longer in that top-notch league.

  56. Wow, Cole you are pissed. Anyway I haven’t read all 68 preceding comments, but I did a search for “Da Vinci’s” which got no results, so I hope no one has said exactly this before me. Anyway, this is laughable, exactly the wrong direction. As has been said earlier, the key is to make meals more flexible.

    Imagine this for a dining system. You pay board at whatever and they give you, say, exactly enough points for you to be able to spend 4 points 20 times a week (I think this would be like 1200). Those points could be spent at Tarble or the Coffee Bars also, or, how about this, in the Co-op or that bistro place? I don’t think it would be that hard to give the co-op one of those swipe machines.

    The first advantage of this would be to encourage local business. Da Vinci’s couldn’t stay open because we all eat at Sharples so much and because their food was too expensive and generally mediocre and slow and they were often out of stuff. But anyway, if we could spend points in town, Bam! town life.

    The second would be to give more students an option to choose between groceries and sharples or both. It’s sort of ridiculous that to live on campus you have to be on the meal plan. Under this system we could keep that system but allow more students to eat independently. And, if paying $2500 a semester for $1200 worth of points seemed like a raw deal, the extra $1300 is going towards subsidizing sharples and keeping the costs much lower than the amount of food we eat there.

    The drawback, the college would inevitably say, would be that fewer people would eat at Sharples and then costs would go up for providing the food. Good. Sharples sucks. Competition encourages higher quality. If everyone stopped going to sharples maybe that would be a sign that on-campus food can’t cut it.

    It doesn’t have to be like this. Bowdoin, a similarly sized college in Maine, has much better food, some of the best in the nation for a small college according to student satisfaction reports, and they charge $5530 for a year of board; swarthmore charges $5272. However, they also charge $694 less for a year of rooming, so they come out ahead.

    Small colleges can have good food (Bowdoin). They can have flexible meal plans. If Sharples were better, and in a competitive market, people would certainly choose to eat there together quite often. It’s convenient, fast, and it’s where everyone is. Better food and a competitive market are certainly not a betrayal of our quaker roots; further, the advantages of moving to an entirely points based system, to me, seem to greatly outweigh the harms.

  57. To clarify: I meant for all meals at Sharples to cost four points. Also, this solves the problem of rollover meals. I’m glad everyone is speaking up. Maybe if we get enough power behind this dissatisfaction we can change the way food is served here.

    And probably my least favorite thing about Sharples is that not everything is fresh. Sometimes the lettuce is stale, and, probably once a week, my apple sauce is fermented.

  58. I am currently sitting in Haffner, one of the Bryn Mawr Dinning Halls, and I have just had a filling, nutritious, and GOOD meal. In fact, I have been eating here so often, that I absolutely refuse to eat a salad at Sharples (they manage mixed baby greens, fruits, and veggies that are always fresh and tasty…oh and they have cut up chicken as well). Even more insulting, they manage this quality, while giving their students unlimited, 200 block (use any number of meals any time), and other dinning options. Looking around, I can somewhat see how they do it.
    One of the primary differences I see between here and Sharples is student workers. At Byrn Mawr, a decent number of the dinning hall workers are students, and who better to keep the quality high? If you must eat at a place, it is to your benefit to keep the food good there. Furthermore, using student workers reduces cost. Student workers do not require health plans, retirement benefits, and other options that come with a full-time job (they also use student workers at the coffee bars around campus).
    Bryn Mawr also seems to have higher meal costs for people who aren’t on the dinning plan (over $9 for dinner). Passing increased costs to non-student members of the community seems to be a relatively fair way to improve the quality of food, but make more money (and the dinning halls at Bryn Mawr can compete with any local low-priced eatery).
    Selection is somewhat limited at the different dinning halls. However, Bryn Mawr has 3 different dinning halls, each with different meal options at different periods, adding up to a set of more diverse offerings. By the way, Bryn Mawr Dinning Services is college owned and operated as well.
    So why haven’t we asked Bryn Mawr what we can do better? I am in the same quandary as a number of people on this list. I did notice that Bryn Mawr’s room and board is a bit higher, according to US News and World Report (I didn’t find room and board separated); however, Bryn Mawr provides guaranteed singles for all of its Juniors and Seniors, and most of its Sophmores. Furthermore, the money that I would save eating out would easily cover the $208 difference between the two (the equivalent of say 20 Chinese/Pizza orders a semester, an easily reached number for many Swat students). Oh, Bryn Mawr has also has a few panini presses (and has had them for a few years, at least).

  59. One thing to note is that there are a LOT of things Swat does that Haverford and Bryn Mawr … don’t.

    We have more professors per student, and pay our professors more. We also give professors sabbatical every four years (twice as frequently as most colleges).

    We provide a large number of local workers a fair and decent wage—particularly important since Chester has fairly significant economic problems.

    We have an enormous number of public computers available to students.

    Our library is much larger than Haverford or Bryn Mawr.

    We have a larger number of deans and other support staff.

    We have a 24/7 health center.

    Swat does spend money—a lot of it. It just depends on where the school is spending it.

  60. It is important to understand Sharples in the context of all the other opportunities we have Swat. Either we need to dramatically increase our budget to help pay for Sharples (thereby increasing tuition), or take it out from the ability to have lots of study breaks with great food, amazing lecturers, catered dinners hosted by IC groups etc. We don’t have to pay for anything extra after our tuition.

    Swarthmore is a more respected school than Bodowin.

    Sharples has its good days – I am always excited for Greek bar, falfel bar, and hoagie bar. Sharples also has bad bars- patio bar, sausage bar etc. But we do have the option to use the wok (with fresh ingredients that we dont have to pay extra for), the panini maker . Besides, Tarble already has pizza and unhealthy fried food available, we don’t need pizza at Sharples.

    Considering that students have always complained that Tarble doesn’t offer square meals, this plan seems to come from student responses. It’s not perfect, but let give credit to dining services for listening to student input and trying to make changes.

  61. Miles brings up a lot of good points. Swat does have a ton of great things that are not available at other schools. I think that you also have to consider that while Bryn Mawr and a few of the other schools mentioned have a better food options than Swat, there are plenty of schools that are far worse than Swat.

    I also think that you need to pick your battles. Everything you guys are mentioning can’t be changed at once. The people at Dining Services are very reasonable, and I think that if you come up with a few good goals that are feasible to achieve that you might be able to get some results. Some possible reasonable requests for Sharples could include asking that some of the more unhealthy options (like the appetizer, fried fish, sausage bar, etc.) not be served for lunch and dinner on the same day or that the pasta is cooked one or two minutes less so it is less mushy. Furthermore, if they do want to make changes at Tarble, you need to think about what you can do to compromise as Dining Services believes that the current system does not work. At the very least, being able to fulfill specific dietary needs (allergies, gluten free, vegan, etc.) is within reason, and so is mix and matching some of the options listed (for example, getting fries with a veggie burger, veggies with a burger, or having fingers and fries for dinner).

  62. we all came to swat because of the great oportunities it provides, what miles mentioned.

    but the problem isnt more money, its the poor spending and management of the money we already have. we could do better with similar budgets, like other colleges do. inviting speakers and such is completely irrelevant to dining, it comes from a completely different part of the budget, and thereofre shouldn’t affect how dining money is spent.

    and if we have so many deans maybe they should wake up to this issue of dining which as been around since b4 i came to swat. i plan on discussing the issue with them.

    look at swat we do our best on academics, why shouldnt we expect others to do the same at their jobs. we are highly sensibly people and i am glad we all are giving many swat adminstrators the benefit of the doubt, but where does accountability start?

  63. I only got halfway through reading all these comments, so if you want to see what I’m responding to, scroll like 2/3 up. I think it was posted by someone called “dweeks.”

    But…”infamous nacho bar”? I LOVE nacho bar!!!!! They had guacamole!!!!

  64. In response to RSG “Either we need to dramatically increase our budget to help pay for Sharples (thereby increasing tuition), or take it out from the ability to have lots of study breaks with great food, amazing lecturers, catered dinners hosted by IC groups etc. We don’t have to pay for anything extra after our tuition,” I am in favor of a slight increase to tuition, because, in the end, I believe that students will save money by not buying food from local vendors. Also, Study Breaks and catered dinners may be great, but I feel that it is important to feed the ENTIRE campus well, before we feed a small fraction of it. Also, the “fresh ingredients that we dont have to pay extra for,” aren’t very high quality, or fresh. I challenge you to go a week without once finding brown letuce at least one day (and this letuce is usually largely iceberg and romain, which I find terrible). Also, there are very few cooking options for those of us who like getting protein from something other than vegetables. There is no chicken on the salad bar, and the quality of our deli meet is, quite frankly, deplorable (my High School had Boar’s Head meat, why can’t my college?).
    AFG, I completely agree that we need to start small. However, I don’t know where to start at all (and the napkin board doesn’t seem to cut it). Obviously, enough people are dissatisfied with Sharples that, I believe, StuCo needs to begin some sort of round table discussion to figure out what changes would be feesible. I would personally propose fresh baby greens, spinach, and chicken everyday on the salad bar, and high quality sandwich meat, so we could at least make decent food ourselves. From there, I would have students vote on bars so that we can find out which don’t effectively feed campus (puppy club, cheese-steak, nacho, pasta (I can’t stand the quality of Sharple’s pasta, not just the cooking time), to name a few).
    Finally, if Sharples cares so much about our health, why do they refuse to cook healthy? High mayonnaise content, and the exclusive use of SALTED butter should be eliminated. In fact, I think one of the biggest improvement to Sharples would be to remove all salt from their food, and to allow students to salt as they wish (or, at very least, to cook with a minimum of salt). For each of my three years at Swarthmore, I have looked for a StuCo presidential candidate with Sharples reform on their platform. Every year, I have been disappointed. I hope this discussion has helped StuCo, and the administration get the message that they are not feeding their students well.

  65. erik, three things: one, student workers at bryn mawr has nothing to do with the quality of their food… unless they have students actually purchasing food and determining menus and recipes.

    two, we will never have boar’s head meats. i don’t know where you went to high school, but those are really expensive.

    third, i predict that if sharples removed all salt from their food, there would be a LOT more complaints.

    I agree that Sharples isn’t perfect, and of course Tarble is all but useless. But we actually have it pretty good here. I complain about Sharples daily, but I’m happy with it overall. And I think the “meals” system, though it has its drawbacks, is a good way of living out “quaker values.” Because of this system, I hardly ever pay for food with cash — something that a lot of my friends at other schools do all the time, which really highlights class differences in an unpleasant and unfair way.

    We should be careful not to slip into whininess, elitism, or jumping to uninformed conclusions. brown lettuce once a week is not a disaster.

    at vassar, the food is better, but the charge you by the pound. isn’t that creepy? sharples isn’t so bad.

  66. Erik,

    Something really essential about Swarthmore’s employment practices in the dining hall is that they employ a lot of disabled people from the community. Where do you suggest these adolescents and adults attain work if not at a socially conscious college attempting to give some of the most marginalized people in our society an opportunity to work?

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