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Author: Mike Waters

It was with complete horror that I read last week’s issue of The Campus. Buried on page four, behind headlines like “Dwyer wins coveted CC chair” and “Preview days host 400 students,” was an item of news that will change in the way we live here at Middlebury College – one that should not have been so marginalized with a position in the bowels of the paper. The announcement that “All dining halls will serve same main course” is an enormous departure from what we have come to expect here at Middlebury, and while I take serious issue with the way the issue was overlooked in The Campus, I have more problems with the idea itself.

Over the past few years, Director of Dining Services Matthew Biette has instituted or been involved in a number of significant changes to the Middlebury College dining experience. The removal of trays, the disappearance of juice at dinner, the downsizing of Midnight Breakfast and the impending closing of Atwater have all been met by significant student uproar. But as each change has been explained, we have begrudgingly accepted, and then forgotten about the issue. All have been the result of economic forces outside of our control, so we understand the need to make cuts in times of turmoil. However, this latest change – to remove any bit of variety between dining hall menus – has no logical explanation and cannot be explained away by the current economic crisis.

While the article hints at “streamlining,” ultimately this has nothing to do with the decision to institute uniform menus across the three dining halls. Instead, this change will be initiated in an effort to shorten lines – an admirable cause, but one approached in completely the wrong way. I’m no economist, but let’s examine a couple of simple economic concepts:

Based on the simplest of all free market rules – supply and demand – it is clear that the demand for some dishes is quite high. This leads to long lines at one dining hall, while the others are less crowded. Sure, people might complain about this crowding, but it clearly is not enough for them to give up their pursuit of that dish altogether. I say, let the people decide; if long lines really are that big of an issue, don’t you think everyone would just go somewhere else? There’s no need to increase supply unnecessarily; sometimes a good thing is worth waiting for.

Second, let’s consider economies of scale – the idea that producing anything in bulk is cheaper than in small quantities. If there were some economic rationale for this change, the most likely scenario would be that the College could save money by producing only one dish instead of several. However, based on the current dining hall setup, this would not be the case. Serving only one entr

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