The case for removing the doors on Whitmans’

Lena Kerest and Genevieve Randazzo

In the midst of a busy and stressful week, the best way to find social connection at the College is often to “grab a meal” with friends, teammates, classmates, or the friendly entrymate who you sort of stay in touch with. We are lucky to have a handful of options to choose from, as many similarly-sized colleges only have one main dining hall. However, we all know that dining at the College isn’t perfect. 

One way that dining can be improved at the College is by removing the doors on the entrance and exit of Whitmans’, allowing more than one entrance per swipe. Our rationale for this improvement is twofold: Removing the doors will decrease food waste and allow for healthier eating. 

The feeling of indecision and overstimulation upon entering Whitmans’ is a relatable one. You quickly try and calculate the length of each buffet line before you commit to one, craning your neck to size up the options ahead. Ah, dessert! Do you want soup today? Is an overladen Clean Cuisine container perhaps the better choice? Fruit! Drink? Antipasto, perhaps. Is there room on your oval plate for curlicues of salad greens? Due to the single-entry nature of Whitmans’, enforced by those clear turnstile-like doors at the entrance and exit, students are inclined to grab as much food as possible, knowing that they will not get a second chance to select food on that same swipe. We load up on all the options available, attempting to estimate what we’ll crave in a few minutes, and that excess ends up being composted or going straight into the garbage. Thirty-one percent of food at the supply-chain and consumption level is wasted, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and U.S. colleges contribute heavily to that figure. According to the National Resource Defense Council, college campuses across the U.S. produce 22 million pounds of food waste every year. 

If Whitmans’ allowed for multiple entrances, students could be more thoughtful about getting the food that they will actually consume, beginning with smaller portions and going back for seconds. This would allow students to operate without a scarcity mindset and would put less pressure on the choices made in the few minutes they’re allotted to intuit what they feel like eating for dinner. Though much food waste ends up being composted instead of put in the trash, that doesn’t mean it should be going to waste at all. Food waste would decrease without the overestimation encouraged by having one opportunity to get food in Whitmans’. 

Dealing with food and nutrition can be difficult for a variety of reasons as a student, and the preoccupation with food often characterizing disordered eating could be exacerbated by the single-allowed entrance into Whitmans’. This does not allow for intuitive eating, which is important for fueling the body and mind. With the current system in place, students are not able to change their minds about how much or what type of food they feel like eating mid-meal. Being able to make decisions while eating allows for a healthier relationship with food and nutrition. When faced with the chaos of the buffet lines at 6:30 p.m. on a weeknight, one may not grab all the food that they want. However, students should be able to go back into Whitmans’ and get a dessert or an extra serving in order to stay healthy and happy at the College. The College could facilitate students’ positive relationships with food by removing the prohibitive doors on Whitmans’.

Since Whitmans’ is the central dining hall on campus, it is important — and possible — to provide students with a better dining experience. Driscoll and Mission Dining Halls already allow for more than one entrance per swipe, so it would not be new to institute the same system at Whitmans’, particularly because it existed before the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic. The doors help modulate the number of students entering Whitmans’ at a time, but it isn’t particularly disruptive to dash back in the buffet line at Driscoll or get a drink at Mission. Removing the doors would greatly improve Whitmans’ and would allow students to make simple but crucial decisions while eating.

Lena Kerest ’25 is from Shelburne, Vt., and she is the town news editor for the Record’s editorial board. Genevieve Randazzo ’25 is from Brooklyn, N.Y., and she is an executive editor for Press Record, the Record’s podcast.