When summer semester starts, I feel a twinge of excitement at the impending emptiness of Tech Walkway, the lack of lines at the post office and — my favorite part — the ease of finding a seat in the CULC. With these upsides of a much less crowded campus come downsides that can affect student productivity, budgets and safety.
My chief complaint is that the majority of food options on campus close by 3pm. A few make the heroic leap to stay open until 4pm*, but otherwise Tech offers nowhere to eat dinner. While some may argue that dining halls can fill this void, this option is overpriced for many students, and impractical for the many students who commute over the summer. One dining hall, Brittain, is even closed for the whole summer.
The most tragic loss, especially for those pinching pennies, is that Taco Bell is closed all summer. The most illogical part is that the eateries on the second floor of the Student Center close the earliest at 2:30pm. Finally, for the countless students reliant on caffeine, good luck finding any coffee after business hours**.
This detailing of the dearth of evening dining options may seem whiny until you consider a student who gets out of class at 4 and dutifully studies at the library until midnight. This scenario, give or take a few hours, is not uncommon for Tech students, especially during midterms or finals. What can fill these eight hours of abandonment from on campus dining options?
The beleaguered student is left with two unappealing options: vending machines or delivery. One option leads to subsisting on snacks and energy drinks for the night, and the other hurts the bank account with inevitable fees. In the face of these subpar solutions, it may occur to the proactive student to pack dinner and a midnight snack to sustain the study marathon.
Where will the student keep that evening and late night fuel during the day? For a commuter leaving the house at 7am or even a student leaving their dorm at 1pm, keeping dinner at a safe temperature until it is time to eat is unrealistic.
Tech should offer a communal fridge for students to store their packed meals, in the CULC or otherwise centrally located on campus. Adding more microwaves than the sole machine available after hours in the Student Center would complement this accommodation of students bringing their own food.
While demand for evening dining options is lower in the summer, it is still significantly higher than the current supply. At least one, ideally a few, restaurants should change their operating hours to include the evening.
Sure, students always have the option of going off campus to eat, but the waste of time and money is not sustainable on a daily basis. Why is it ridiculous to expect that summer students, who pay nearly the same fees, have access to similar dining hours as traditional semester students?
Speaking of fees, the transportation fee is scaled down based on the number of weeks per semester: $85 for the past 16 and a half week spring, $57 for the current 11-and-a-half week summer. While this prorated cost may seem reasonable at first, it is not justified because transportation services are significantly reduced in the summer.
The worst loss, in terms of safety, is the Midnight Rambler, which does not operate at all over the summer. Less frequent service of the Stinger buses and the Trolley on weekdays inconveniences those on campus in the hottest months.
Proportionally, the total of the mandatory fees is higher than it should be if it was prorated by the length of the semester. Spring 2017 was $1200, and full Summer 2017 was $955; if it was scaled to the number of weeks, the cost for summer would be approximately $835. The culprit of this difference may be the $100 increase in the institutional fee from spring to summer this year.
With these numbers, summer students should be able to expect similar levels of services. With a reduced number of people on campus paying fees, using buses and eating meals, it is understandable that the Institute cannot provide exactly the same levels as the regular school year, but more of an effort should be made. These improvements, in consideration of students’ finances, productivity and safety, would allow summer students to focus more on what they are here to do: learn.
*The one place that is open until 5, the Lab Cafe in the Biotech Quad, is not listed on Dining’s hour of operations page or its “What’s Open Now” page.
**Yes, I know you can get “coffee” from a vending machine in CULC. This does not count.