Thanksgiving at Amherst: The Ups and Downs

This week the Office of Residential Life has made an effort to accommodate and even entertain those of us who stayed on campus for the break due to financial reasons, sports teams’ practice schedules, or (oftentimes derailed) efforts to actually get some work done, for once. I’ve graded their attempts, because I’m ever the critic.

Meal Plan (Need based): Needless to say, for me, this was the highlight of the college’s labors. Although Val was closed for the week, students with high financial need were able to preregister for meals in Lewis-Sebring Commons, which was kept running by a group of small but dedicated culinary staff members. The meals did not have as much variety as regular Val meals, but for the scale they were working on, the staff did an excellent job of changing up the menu. Frankly, these meals were a godsend to many students who would have gone hungry all week without them. Thankfully, the college saw this as the health concern it was, and took action. Bravo.

Grade: A

Dinner on Thanksgiving Day (Open to all students): This was much the same story as the meal plan, except it was open to all students rather than just those with financial need. The AAS funded those students not already on the weekly meal plan, while the Dean of Students Office continued to fund students on the meal plan. This meal was catered by The Black Sheep, and it was delicious. Dishes included mashed potatoes, stuffing, turkey, and classic green bean casserole, followed by various types of pie and vanilla ice cream. It wasn’t home, but it was close.

Om nom nom...

Grade: A

Events: There was an event every day this week, from last Saturday through today. Events ranged from ping-pong and scrabble tournaments, to a crafting day, to a bowling trip off campus. Winners of tournaments received $15 gift certificates to local eateries. These events were open to all students on campus. My one problem with this setup was that the events were not always well-advertised to those students not on the meal plan for the week, since changes to/updates of events were often only made known at the meals. In this case, the students without sufficient financial need got the short end of the stick, which is as inexcusable as the reverse.

Grade: C

All in all, I believe the Thanksgiving Break programming was a success on the college’s part, with a solid B+ average. However, since I have graded the college’s behavior during the break, I feel that it is only fair to grade that of the students as well. I’ll admit up front that I only have one criterion for grading the students, and that is the way they treated others during a time when they were meant to be thankful for what they had.

Student Behavior: On the whole, students were grateful for the meals and programming, always quick to thank the staff. A “Thank You Staff” banner was even made, on which students wrote appreciative messages ranging from “Call me” at the most absurd (and surely well-intentioned) to lines of delighted gushing.

On the other side, however, were those students who chose to take the fact that they wouldn’t be getting meals all week rather… shall we say, ungracefully. One student argued with staff for about twenty minutes that he should be allowed into a meal, despite the fact that he had not even applied to be on the meal plan. In addition, several students who were accepted into the meal plan took plates of food from the meals despite the fact that they were expressly told not to do so. The latter types of students refused to see the program for what it was: an attempt to address legitimate health concerns. Instead of being a little inconvenienced by having to go into town or back to Val for another meal they tried to take advantage of the college’s generosity, and so dragged down the appearance of the entire student body.

Grade: C

I will not comment on this disparity between the grade of the students and the grade of the college, except to say that for all of the complaining Amherst students engage in, it seems odd that their behavior would be less than exemplary compared to that of the college during this time of “thanksgiving”. Hmmm…..

Let's not be these guys, okay?