Let Them Eat KAF

Photo: Courtesy of The Dartmouth

With the bittersweet passing of the Class of 2013 this spring, remaining students have quickly had to come to terms with the fact that their beloved seniors are not the only Dartmouth linchpins that have officially moved on from the College.

Complaints and allegations regarding suspicious activity within the inner-workings of the infamous Dartmouth Dining Services have become commonplace on campus ever since the initiation of the meal swipe system in the fall of 2011, but it seems DDS has successfully outdone its own bad deeds through its recent decision to eliminate one of the most popular food options on campus: the KAF sandwich.

DDS authorities have been suspiciously silent with regards to the sandwich’s passing, claiming only that “KAF is independently operated, so DDS does not have any relevant comments regarding their operations.”

In the meantime, Novak Café, often criticized as a second-rate dining establishment for coffee and quick meals, has been slowly phasing in (relatively) fresh sandwiches to their menu since spring term. From the Bostonian to the Windy City, DDS had remarkable–if not unbelievable– foresight to fill this void that they claim they did not anticipate. One need not be a conspiracy theorist to see the obvious connection.

 Even more remarkable has been KAF’s response to the situation. While the coffee shop is indeed operated independently, there is absolutely no doubt that KAF was strong-armed into relinquishing their newly-developed monopoly on the Baker-Barry sandwich market. When news of the impending exodus of the KAF sandwich reached the student body in May, many students were pleasantly surprised to receive a free sandwich from KAF on their last day of availability.  As such, hundreds of undergraduates packed into the Baker Library location to cart off their fill. As demonstrated by the persistent popularity of these $7.95 sandwiches, KAF most certainly did not chose to phase out its best-sellers due to lagging profit margins.

 To put the amount of money that King Arthur Flour used to be able to siphon off of DDS into perspective, consider the fact that KAF regularly shipped leftover sandwiches from surrounding stores to their Baker-Berry location after daytime hours. KAF was making so much money selling a combination of bread, cheese, and apples for eight dollars a pop they could barely keep up with demand on Dartmouth’s campus.

By taking away its privilege to serve substantial food, DDS has effectively condemned KAF to irrelevancy. The hundreds of students who admittedly lived off of KAF dining options last year must now make the trek to Collis to get anything worth eating. And the greatest irony of all? KAF was without a doubt the most healthy dining option on campus while it lasted. Fresh apples, yogurt, salads, etc. all contribute to a well-rounded diet. The same cannot be said for the greasy garbage that students are begrudgingly convinced to eat at the HOP or Foco.

DDS’s greatest offense of all, however, lies in its enforced altering of KAF’s cake policy. Last fall and winter, many students were able to use their bundles of leftover DBA to pre-order KAF cakes for the next term, a policy that gave students who are unable to spend all of their DBA in a term a convenient way to not waste that money. Win-win situation, right? Not exactly. DDS could not come to terms with the fact that students were no longer wasting the unnecessary amount of DBA that DDS forced them to buy in the first place. Obviously, this would not be nearly as big a problem if DDS simply allowed DBA to roll-over term to term, as it historically did until just a few years ago. Thousands of dollars of DBA now goes unspent or is spent on last-minute junk food that inevitably goes untouched.

What then does this all mean? To many students, it suggests one thing and one thing only: that Dartmouth increasingly elevates the interests of its professional constituencies over that of its undergraduate population. It seems that in an effort to salvage dwindling DDS profitably and the plush SEIU compensation packages that it supports, the College has sacrificed a favorite undergraduate dining establishment without so much as an honest explanation. When such thinking dominates policymaking in Parkhurst, it is ultimately student life that winds up footing the bill. 


— Martin J. Gatens