Response column: In defense of the administration’s cost of living policies
Danny McMaster | Tuesday, September 17, 2019
On Sept. 5, there was an column written in the Observer by a regular columnist. You should read it, but first I want you to know that you should not believe a single word of it. You can go and read it here.
Now some of you might be thinking, “Wait, this is a newspaper, just because it’s underlined here doesn’t mean that this column is linked to that. Also, that column was written two weeks ago, do you expect me to go and find a two-week-old copy of the Observer just to understand this column?”
And, yeah, those are fair points. So what I’ll do now is summarize that column, in a completely fair and unbiased manner.
Two weeks ago, so-called Economics major senior Ben Testani wrote a column called “Napkin math: Notre Dame charges the highest room and board amongst its peers.” The column’s main focus was on the “high” price of room and board and the price of living on campus in comparison to Notre Dame’s peers. He argues that the University charges too much for room and board and claims it is “unfair” that the University charges an exorbitant price for commodities it mandates students purchase for at least three years.
Mr. Testani’s argument is a complete mischaracterization of the strokes of genius that are the administration’s pricing system and demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the principles of economics. I dare say that his economics degree should be stripped and converted into an honorary degree (the participation trophy of degrees).
To begin, Mr. “Testani” fundamentally misunderstands how incentives work: If something has a high price, people will consume less of it. If the price is low, people will consume more of it. Macro, mirco, this is literally day one stuff. My two-year-old nephew could understand this, if I had a two-year-old nephew.
The University isn’t overpricing living for its students, it’s properly setting its incentives. Testani goes on to quote the “problem” of the University’s Grab ‘n Go Cheez-It price of $2.43 per pack, compared to a Costco price of $0.26 per pack. However, does he even know what’s in a pack of Cheez-Its? Calories: 210. Saturated fat: 2.5 grams. Monounsaturated fat: 2.5 grams. Sodium: 290 milligrams. That’s 13% of your total daily recommended sodium right there.
If you believe in “Mr.” Testani’s prices, then you could blow your whole day’s worth of sodium for $2.08, and add on 1,680 calories for good measure. Don’t you get it? The University is charging you $2.43 for your Cheez-Its for YOUR benefit. They’re looking out for you! If you wanted your whole day’s worth of sodium from Notre Dame Cheez-Its, that would run you a full $20. Hard to gain the ol’ First-Year 15 at that rate.
The University does this for everything. I bet Beñ probably thinks that it’s unfair that the Notre Dame $15.6k room and board doesn’t cover laundry machines. This would just further demonstrate how utterly hapless he is. If laundry was free, students simply wouldn’t stop doing it! Do you like doing laundry? No, no one does! But if it was free, you can know without question that I would be down in the laundry room every night, running my clothes through the wash, drying them and then rolling them in dirt outside so that I could start the entire process all over again.
This would not be the best use of my time. You see, when they charge you $3.50 for a load of laundry, they don’t do it for profit’s sake. They do it because they care.
Further, I was uniquely upset by the level of work the man from Alumni Hall put into this column. Napkin math? Seriously? You did this on a napkin? You have the gall to write 1,000 words in the Observer, but you can’t find the time to grab a piece of paper, let alone an Excel document? I am disturbed that someone would have the audacity to write something so underdeveloped and foolish in the school newspaper. I hope that this stops, because the Observer is no place for sarcastic, unprofessional behavior.
Therefore, I hope that Bën comes to his senses and understands the true nature of the University’s pricing systems. I trust that as he continues to pursue his degree in economics, he will learn the folly of his previous thoughts. When he does, I will welcome him with open arms and an economically priced bag of Grab ‘n Go Cheez-Its.
*This isn’t mean because I asked Ben if I could write this and he made fun of my hair, which I took as permission. **
**Please don’t take that seriously, or anything in the column really.
Danny McMaster is a senior business analytics major, and has never once been wrong in his entire life. He can be reached at [email protected] or @DanMcMaster14 on Twitter.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.