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News, commentary, criticism and praise for the College on the Hill, enlivened with history, culture and travel when we feel so moved.
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Why Foco Prices Are So Loco
The D had another good editorial on Friday, this one noting the student ripoff that is Dartmouth Dining Services (DDS). The piece began with a radical idea — “Dartmouth should serve its students’ interests.” — and then it listed DDS’s flaws: monopoly power (it “forces students to buy mandated dining plans even if they live off-campus or in College-owned apartments”); expensive meal plans (a 160-swipe meal plan runs $2,230: $13.94/meal!); exorbitant individual prices (“A pack of four Udi’s gluten free baked goods can be bought for $7 in a grocery store, but DDS’s Novack Cafe sells just one of the four pre-packaged muffins included for $3.55. A bottled Odwalla smoothie sells at DDS for $4.75, but that same bottle costs just $2.94 from other retailers. A bottle of Honest Tea can be bought for $1.29 or less, but at Dartmouth, the drink costs $3.50.”) and awful service (“Lines are growing appallingly long at DDS locations. It is now not uncommon to see students lined up almost to McNutt Hall from the doors of ‘53 Commons [Foco]. The overcrowded Collis Cafe remains all but unnavigable during peak hours. During dinner and lunch times, the Courtyard Cafe suffers from lines that can take up to 40 minutes…”).
However the Editors didn’t isolate the cause of the problem. They should. The College is not having DDS serve students’ interests because it has decided that the staff is more important than students (where have you heard that assertion before?). Look at the above want ad from Page G1 of this past Sunday’s Valley News. Wages of $18.26/hour ($38,000/year for a 40-hour workweek) for a cookhelper or a dishwasher are about 50% over the local wage scale for food service workers. Given that the median per capita income in New Hampshire is $34,691 — the fifth best in the United States — $38,000/year is luxurious pay for an unskilled job requiring only a high school education.
Then add to that figure the fact that starting DDS employees receive over five weeks of time off each year — two or sometimes three weeks is the local maximum — along with full family health benefits at a minimal cost, and you see why DDS has to gouge students to break even. (I have no current figures on DDS’s overall profitability, but six years ago erstwhile DDS Director Dave Newlove boasted on his LinkedIn page that DDS was making an annual profit of over $1.0 million).
A back of the envelope calculation show DDS workers taking in compensation and benefits that total well over double what local workers in food service earn.
It should go without saying that not all institutions of higher learning shovel money out the door like the College does. The Chronicle of Higher Education has a wage/salary database that lists food service workers at research universities as earning $25,894 /year — about $12.45/hour. And not all research universities are located in low-cost New Hampshire:
If we compare DDS vacation time to the average accorded to American workers, the craziness becomes even clearer. Compared to the figures at right, a DDS employee with ten years of service receives six weeks of time off (paid time off, vacation time and Xmas-New Year’s break), not counting legal holidays.
To use NYU Professor John Haidt’s formulation, is the College’s telos education or social justice? Do we want to grossly overpay Dartmouth’s workers compared to the wages and benefits earned by their friends and neighbors in the Upper Valley? And in doing so, do we accept that such a policy will hugely inflate the cost of education and deprive worthy academic areas of funding (like faculty salaries, for example)?
Such an allocation of resources might reflect your politics, but not mine. I see Dartmouth as an institution of higher learning where a fine education will provide benefits for the whole world. Not one penny more than is necessary should be spent on functions ancillary to the educational effort.
Perhaps you see the College as a welfare agency? Just like the Hanlon administration.
Addendum: In my own local business no employee has ever negotiated a wage increase by citing the wages and benefits paid out by Dartmouth. Everyone in the Upper Valley views the College as a cloud cuckooland that rational enterprises can’t possibly emulate.
Addendum: A student writes in:
A few weeks ago, I emailed DDS to ask about petitioning my way out of the meal plan requirement. I live in an on-campus house with a fully-equipped kitchen, which I use often, and from past experience know that I’m capable of feeding myself on $200/month (even in Hanover).
DDS’s response was very polite, but started with this gem: “For Dartmouth’s dining program to be successful, all students enrolled in classes and/or living on-campus or in Dartmouth-affiliated undergrad housing must participate in a dining plan.”
I don’t think that’s true, and even if it were, I’d still resent the hell out of Dartmouth making me spend an extra $500/month on food. (And I’m on the *cheapest* meal plan!)
August 14, 2013
Breaking: Of Crips and Bloods and Memories of Ghetto Parties
History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce, or sometimes it just repeats itself. From the New York Times on November 30, 1998: At Dartmouth College, white students at a ”ghetto party” dressed…
June 25, 2013
Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson’s War on Students Part (2/2)
Part 1, Part 2 Today’s post again recounts the events that befell the Freshman. However, the content of the Hanover Police department report reproduced in this space yesterday is supplemented by information from my own…
October 18, 2009
When Love Beckoned in 52nd Street
We were at San Francisco’s BIX last evening, enjoying prosecco, cheese, and a bit of music. A full year of inhabitation in Northern California has unraveled to me no decent venue for proper lounging, but…
October 9, 2009
D Afraid of a Little Competish
So our colleague and Dartblog writer Joe Asch informed me that the D has rejected our cunning advertising campaign. Uh-oh. The Dartmouth is widely known as a breeding ground for instant New York Times successes,…
September 4, 2009
How Regents Should Reign
As Dartmouth alumni proceed through the legal hoops necessary to defuse a Board-packing plan—which put in unhappy desuetude an historic 1891 Agreement between alumni and the College guaranteeing a half-democratically-elected Board of Trustees—it strikes one…
August 29, 2009
Election Reform Study Committee
If you are an alum of the College on the Hill, you may have received a number of e-mails of late beseeching your input for a new arm of the College’s Alumni Control Apparatus called…
- The Dartmouth College Case
- 2007 Trustee Election
- Dartmouth Constitution
- Sunday Morning Sinatra
- The Indian Wars
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