Kerby: A follow-up on an administrative failing

Stephen Kerby, Staff Columnist

I was joking in my last article when I suggested that the administration should ban all non-Bon Appetit food from campus buildings for health reasons. Surely, I reassured myself, no one would get any bright ideas from my essay filled with righteous, if harmless, indignation.  Alas, I was wrong.

I entered Nord Hall on Tuesday morning to find little pink printouts plastered on all the tables normally used to hand out food. Severe restrictions had been levied against all food to be sold in Nord. Each piece must now be individually wrapped, labeled with all ingredients and any possible allergens. At least two people must be present to sell food, one with gloves to carefully hand the buyer each piece, and another to handle the money.

Ignore, for a moment, that student-sold food on Case Quad apparently needs none of these precautions. Disregard the insanity of asking for a thorough list of ingredients; more goes into a chocolate chip than just chocolate, after all. Never mind the possibility that this is an attempt to discourage students from selling food in Nord by laying such onerous restrictions on the process so as to make it totally impractical.  

For now, take this new set of restrictions as another example of the administration’s lack of faith in its students, in this case concerning their physical well-being.

Higher education presents a plethora of mental challenges to prepare students for professional life. Conflicting opinions clash on every campus, and engaging with those debates promotes a strong academic environment. Still, recent developments on our campus suggest that we are witnessing the coddling of students. We are being bubble-wrapped, and our administration is focusing on keeping the bottom line in the black with safe but docile students.

Most students here are legal adults. Some of us are older than 21, an adult in every way. Our parents might be half a continent away, and most of us will depart after graduation for independent life. There, we will fend for ourselves, sink or swim. Four years of college can produce stable adults by removing safeguards that previously were propped up by parents but soon students will need to stand alone.

Accidental allergic reactions are of course preventable and regrettable, but I would hope that a student mature enough to go to college is also mature enough to take precautions for their allergies. For example, a student with a severe allergy to peanuts passing through Nord should not accept food cooked in some random fraternity’s oven, regardless of the amount of care in preparation or labeling. If the administration is truly concerned about allergens, though, I hope you won’t mind my repetition.

If health risks are the real justification for banning external food then student-distributed food should be banned in all university buildings.

Because I wasn’t blunt about it last time, I do not think student-distributed food is a threat worth eliminating. Don’t do it.  

The administration should not be so concerned about the minute details of its students’ physical well-being. Food was greatly restricted in Tinkham Veale University Center for health reasons, and now it’s restricted in Nord.

General safety is always desirable, but if higher education is to be a transition period between adolescence and adulthood, shouldn’t more faith be placed in the ability of students to look after themselves?  Leaving all else aside, I think it is beneficial for a university to produce self-sufficient adults who live nice long lives and donate to the Alumni Association for decades to come.

Our administration, by acting as a helicopter parent, is treating students as customers instead of academic assets and apprentices. A healthy student will continue to enroll year after year, and protecting students from even the smallest of dangers helps avoid lawsuits by angry parents. CWRU wasn’t this protective a few decades ago. As my last article suggested, the university doesn’t seem to trust students to make decisions that directly affect the campus community, and it likewise doesn’t seem to trust their ability to take care of themselves.  

In this age of broken promises, the university should take small steps to show a modicum of real trust.

Steve Kerby is a fourth-year student studying astronomy and physics. He’s flattered that administrators read his articles but would like to reiterate that student-sold food should not be banned.