COUNTERPOINT: We Have Been Denied an Essential Freedom

In August, returning Berkeley students were greeted with the addition of a brand new Café and a new luchtime rule. Everyone must now consume all food in the Café with only two exceptions: seniors may eat in the seniors mall, and students participating in clubs may eat at their meetings. According to an email from the Upper Division administration, these measures were taken to “increase community inclusiveness.” Nevertheless, some students disagree with the new policy. So the question remains–Should students be forced to eat in the Café?

Students should be afforded the freedom to eat outside the Café. With the installation of the Café, students have lost the mobility and freedom to enjoy our campus as we please during lunch. Instead, lunches now involve maneuvering through a maze of packed bodies and having to experience the same setting day after day, without variation.

A big complaint from students has been the limited space in the Café. Yes, it is clear that the Café is able to fit most of the Upper Division student body, but with 425 seats in the Café and y (ask Mrs. Timothy) students in the Upper Division, even if the entire senior class were to eat in the mall on that day, that still means that there are z students in the Café.

With barely a one-to-one ratio of students to seats, people often find themselves wading through seas of people and cramming into overstuffed booths. The problem with seating has become apparent to students like Sophomore Nick Diaco, who said “it’s nearly impossible to find the seat you want every time.” Instead of being forced to sit with someone new though, as per the original intention, it simply causes students to stand or attempt to cram booths to their breaking points: “I’d sit practically on top of another guy if I had to, but I’d rather not,” says Diaco.

Along with overstuffing the usable room in the café, Berkeley students feel deprived of the beauty of the rest of the campus. Senior Kelley Sheets recalls the joy of sitting on the mound in years past, saying it was “a really relaxing and fun place to eat.” Not to say that the Café isn’t nice because it’s great according to most students, but people like Sheets are still saying “I really miss that.” Sophomore Amol Dhaliwal is in agreement with the statement that “Berkeley is a beautiful campus.” The problem doesn’t lie in the fact that students can’t go outside, though, according to Dhaliwal, but more that “the outside patio is nice, but it still doesn’t let us visit our favorite places on campus.”

In theory, being forced to sit in the Café during lunch seems to be one with many benefits. It is argued that it promotes unity, yet students tend sit with the same people every day, regardless of space availability. Another problem is that despite the installation of a patio area for students to enjoy the Florida weather, it still doesn’t afford us the luxury of going to our favorite on-campus spots. Perhaps the administration should consider that no solution is perfect, but the amount of trash is offset by the freedoms that students should be able to enjoy. If trash reduction is the goal, there are better ways to meet this goal, but revoking students’ freedoms is not the answer. Like the freedom of speech, freedom to eat outside has inherent problems that need to be addressed. However, these problems do not justify removing the right.

Simply, the fact that students are deprived of the choice to sit outside is the biggest flaw in forcing students to eat in the Café.