Tray inconvenience: a true inconvenience
Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, September 6, 2016
True to its word, the movement of the trays in the dining hall is nothing more than inconvenient. I have a new choice: a trifle waste of time to resume my old habits of carrying a tray, or a free chance to grow into a more socially conscious person. On paper, it seems like a decision worth giving to the creative and caring customers of South and North Dining Halls. But every decision has draw backs, and the decision was not one that I really had an opportunity to voice my own opinions on. So I take this opportunity to critique this inconvenience and hopefully speak for those who feel that their opinions also have not had the opportunity to be voiced.
The purpose of restricting access to trays is straightforward, according the goofy emoji-laden signs cleverly designed to prevent you from searching for ulterior motives: Cut back on food waste. If you take less food, less will be thrown away. This result has at least two advantages: cost, where the University saves money by having to wash less dishes and trays, and morals, where we don’t waste our meals when there are people who go home hungry even within blocks of campus. Also, there is the added benefit of self-satisfaction to the dining hall employees knowing less of their food is ending up in landfills.
I have two main issues/considerations/etc. with this program. First of which, this mentality may push inconvenience upon students, but there is one group that has more than just “inconvenience” too — the custodial staff. For two of the past three summers I have worked as a member of the custodial staff at a neighboring school district, and while I would not consider this nearly enough time to empathize with their struggle of cleaning up after others, I would consider this enough time to be aware that they are always felt to be the group thought of last at any institution. With less trays comes more opportunity for messes. The other day, I saw a peer in the dining hall carrying a plate of piled food in one hand and two beverages pinched precariously between his thumb and forefinger. He may have made it to his table fine, but on the other hand, he may have created a large mess for a member of the custodial staff to have to clean up. Although creativity in all fields should be celebrated, the risks of these innovations in food-carrying styles are picked up solely by the staff, and not by the students, making this disproportionately inconvenient for the wrong group. This unfortunately counters any moral gain from the ease of the work for the cooks and dishwashers by adding work to the custodians
The second issue is more of an issue of transparency. Too often corporations cut corners with cost, and pass these cuts on to the user with an inferior product under the guise of moral superiority. This mentality could lead to the cynical view that Notre Dame is merely trying to cut minor corners in cost and pass it off under a moral guise. As the idea originated from Class Council, I doubt it was intended for purely capitalistic purposes, but the cynic in me can’t help but wonder where the savings are allocated. Further research revealed to me that during the trial “Trayless Tuesdays” last year, the extra money was allocated to locally sourced produce and the extra food donated to the South Bend Center for the Homeless. However there is no indication that this initiative is continuing to this day. If this is still happening, then this needs to be promoted, and if not then a similar program needs to be implemented in order to convince the populous this isn’t just to cut costs. Also, there is no longer any indication of the involvement of class council on the signs in the dining hall.
There are lot of things that are worth doing that are inconvenient. Recycling takes a fraction of thought before you throw something away, but it might help the planet. Writing a rhetorically goofy letter to a paper takes some time, but it may cause some people to think. Right now I plan on continuing to grab a tray if only to help out my friends in the custodial staff, but I think with time and transparency I could come around to going trayless, but not until after I have figured out to hold two glasses of Coca-Cola in one hand.
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.