Plate portions—a judicious matter

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Jillian Schroeder, Contributing Writer

When eating in the cafeteria, UD students feel a little like Oliver Twist. -Photo courtesy of guardian.co.uk
When eating in the cafeteria, UD students feel a little like Oliver Twist. -Photo courtesy of guardian.co.uk

In Charles Dickens’s novel of adventures in America, Martin Chuzzlewit, lies one of the truest insights to humanity I have yet discovered: “There is no such passion in human nature, as the passion for gravy among commercial gentlemen … the amount of gravy they expect each day at dinner … no one would believe.”
An army marches upon its stomach, so goes the saying, and what are we but a veritable army of students with “ancient faces and grave voices” ready at any moment to take up the fight, any fight which presents itself to us? And by these standards, our army has of late been driven mad by increasingly stringent limits on our food, leaving us slaves to a voracious appetite for gravy.
In this matter of limited portions, which, in Oliver Twist, Dickens calls the “supper allotted by the dietary,” we have finally heard an explanation. As reported in the March 26 SG Gavel, our dietary—Aramark—claims that “while students do pay for ‘all-you-can-eat,’ servers do not want food to be wasted.” Thus, the dietary has instructed its servers “to be judicious.”
These are murky terms at best, yet they still rely upon an important assumption: that University of Dallas students will waste the food. No doubt there have been many instances of such shameful waste, and we cannot condone it.
But must we not at the same time take note of the hundreds of plates that do not go to waste? I do not speak of plates that were eaten with great pleasure. I mean the multitude of platters that have been filled and then found wanting (in a variety of ways that, for gratitude’s sake, we shall not specify), but were eaten nonetheless, in the spirit exactly opposite to that ofwaste.
The question of the “supper allotted by the dietary” will go nowhere, however, if both sides content themselves with tossing around accusations. To dwell on occasions of waste or distaste—what good can come from either?
I think the most concerning assumption behind the dietary’s “judgment,” as it were, is the belief that the students cannot decide for themselves. The UD student is educated to, according to the Socratic maxim, “Know thyself,” a teaching which echoes throughout the Core. And though it is too lofty a claim to say that any of us knows himself entirely, surely it is possible that each knows his own stomach?
The official policy is one of “judicious” serving. But, in its current application, this policy seems more one of “judiciously showing a cat milk, if you wish her to thirst for it,” once more in the words of the ever-delightful Dickens. It is cruel to so present the students with food they may find appetizing and then refuse to give them what they expressly request more of.
A policy of serving only the “supper allotted by the dietary” can work, but only if the voices of the students are heard and respected as well. Trust the students to know at least their own hunger. Have patience with us when we waste, and we shall strive to have patience in our criticisms of dishes.
Every plate need not be filled. But we ask that you do not disregard the student who asks, “Please, sir, I want some more.”

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