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Nida Abdulla '11.5: A meal credit or a snack credit?

I feel like someone out there in the intricate corporate web that is Brown is sticking it to me every time I buy food at the Gate, Jo's or the Ivy Room. The other day I missed dinner in the V-Dub, so I decided to go to the Gate for a meal. A meal at the Gate is six bucks, and it bought me a cup of soup, a bag of Stacy's pita chips and a Yoplait yogurt. I carried my purchases to the table and surveyed my meal. Frustrated, I began to eat.

We never complain about the food prices here. Why? So what if we're affluent college students or our meal plans are already paid for? There's no moral or legal law out there that says it is okay to charge people more just because they can pay. Whereas at the Gate I have to pay four-plus dollars for a cup of soup, I can get an actual (and presumably bigger) bowl of soup for $3.85 from Via Via.

Where is our money going? Are we unwittingly donating to some charity fund when we hand over an extra dollar for a Yoplait yogurt? Ever since my freshman year, I have watched this robbery go on, without a murmur, and more often with a smile. Is it because so often the person working at the register is a colleague, and the person who made your sandwich a friend? Is it because we really don't know that we're paying so much extra for food here? Or is it because the dollars are already paid, and we don't realize how much money we're spending on chips alone?

So what do we do? We know there's a problem, but it's not like we can stop eating. A lot of us have fixes at the Gate or Jo's that we can't do without. Well, we could try. We could organize a mass exodus from the late-night eateries until they bring down the prices. Or we could just talk to the person in charge … but who is that? I have asked student workers before who is in charge, and usually they don't know. They are just reporting to some other student, and the student managers are reporting to the Brown Dining Services office.

Why do we let this happen to us, and why are we such easy prey? All we have to do is ask, "Why is the price of this fruit salad so high?" It's not a crime to ask if you're confused. Even though more than half of the students can afford to pay inflated prices for food, the extra money we have to pay creates an atmosphere of mistrust at our university. The message it sends is that Brown, at the end of the day, will still reach into our pockets for our pennies even after we pay a hefty tuition.

Furthermore, because we do ultimately shell out as much as we do on otherwise cheap foods, our staff has a hard time relating to us. They themselves would not pay as much as we do because they cannot afford it or it is too wasteful. Do we want to be seen as wasteful by the Dining Services workers? What about by the freshmen?

What kind of attitude do we impress upon freshmen when we show disregard for these inflated prices? Freshmen come to Brown, go for their first meal at the Gate or Jo's, and while they were used to paying a buck for a half-liter of water, or eighty-five cents for potato chips, they are suddenly expected to pay one-and-a-half times that and add extra items to their meal because they're still a couple dollars shy of two meal credits. Of course, they can't make a fuss, because what would people think? Besides, there are some very stressed and irritable-looking upperclassmen tapping their feet impatiently behind them.

One of the things that fomented the American Revolution was loud, boisterous colonists grumbling and shouting in the taverns. To a lesser magnitude, we need to do the same thing. That is, start talking to each other about the inflated prices while in the eateries until it gets to the ears of those in charge or until it propels some students to get together and take action. Just mention the high prices now, casually, to your friends as you finish reading this article and are about to bite into your panini.

Nida Abdulla '11.5 plans to boycott
the Gate this semester. She can be
contacted at Nida_Abdulla (at) brown (dot) edu.


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