Cafeterias (College Culture Story) Revised

November 3rd, 2016


At precisely 11 a.m everyday, the double-glass doors to the cafeteria are propped open for lunch. The cafeteria transforms into a jungle as a herd of students oth male and female feverishly dig out their IDs from their backpacks or pockets while forming a crude single- file line. Once the computer monitor beeps, confirming the payment of the meal, the line disassembles to various parts of the cafeteria.

Large groups, typically sports groups, travel in their respective packs to their “official tables”. The rest file into booths, high tables and low tables in the same general area as the day before. The freshly wiped tables become cluttered with ID’s, cell phones and jangling keys.  An array of colorful backpacks decorate the floor or empty chairs, which serve s the universal sign for “this spot has been taken”.

Claiming certain tables or areas is actually a natural thing for humans according to the article Territoriality on This act is called a secondary-type of territory since the students don’t directly own the chairs and tables. Just like animals, humans feel the need to border their favorite spots. Sometimes the size or location of the territory links to one’s social status.

Students like to be in control of things as much as possible. Not only does this include their choice of seating, but also the ability to make choices on what they want to eat and the simplicity of how to get it. A cafeteria can initiate the thinking process for these decisions.

“Where should we sit?” asks Ashley Peterson, even though she has a predestination of the general area in mind. Without hesitating for an answer, she navigates her way through the maze of tables and students to a high table.

“What’s there to eat today? Anything good? What’s in that far line?” are all follow up questions that Peterson often asks to whoever is accompanying her that day.

After meandering through all of her options, she finally settles for soup, which her way of expressing that nothing else if good that day.

Even though students often complain about the food, the find themselves constantly coming back for various reasons. For Morningside junior, Ashley Peterson, simplicity is her main motive.

Peterson is a habitual cafeteria eater, despite her almost daily complaints of repetitiveness about it. The reason she goes there so often and why she thinks other students do as well is because the food is already made. Students don’t necessarily have to buy items to make their own food.

Peterson commented that she would not miss the cafeteria after graduation because of the lack of variety of food each week. However, she does like that fact that it seems like a social place. Peterson described the cafeteria as being, “A place to get away from homework and studying and a chance to see people who aren’t seen regularly.”

As for Morningside junior Ariana Rogers, she has a slightly different perspective on the cafeteria. She also has a different take on the simplicity of getting food.

For her first two years of college, she lived on campus and had a meal plan. Now she is currently living in her own apartment off campus and no longer has a meal plan.

Now that Roger’s is off campus, she takes advantage of her version of freedom of choice, by preparing her own meals. She see’s this as a simpler way to get food that she knows she will like. “I can make whatever I’m hungry for at home and pay so much less for it, than what the meal plan is worth.” aid Rogers.

However, Rogers did enjoy going to the cafeteria for the most part, even if the food was just “pretty okay”. Often times her work at Subway conflicted with her eating at the cafeteria, but when she could go, she enjoyed bonding with roommates and hall mates.

“Looking at it from an outside perspective, I can definitely say that it does seem to be a place to hang out when there isn’t much time outside of classes and work and everything else that keeps the student body busy.” explained Rogers.

Even though students may have differing opinions on the food, they find themselves coming back multiple times a week. Without even realizing it, students are taking control of their surroundings and using their freedom of choice. The addition of the social atmosphere and the ability to bond with fellow classmates is an important part of college life.

It’s pretty safe to say that the cafeteria, especially at Morningside, is a big part of college culture.


21 Responses to “Cafeterias (College Culture Story) Revised”

  1. Jenni on November 4, 2016 9:49 am

    I really enjoyed the topic you chose. I think it would be nice to hear from a few more people, maybe a guy or a professor. It may also be interesting to hear from a transfer so they can compare cafeterias. Other than that, really great job, Rachael!

  2. Marti on November 4, 2016 9:55 am

    I enjoyed reading it because it brought in perspectives other than what I would think of. I never thought about how it has changed my vocabulary with things such as swipe and caf It’s so true though! I never thought of it as a social place until I moved off campus and miss that social aspect. The caf has its own way of bringing together the campus and campus community that most people don’t realize. So, I think you did a really good job of showing that.

  3. Diane on November 4, 2016 10:00 am

    You really paint a vivid picture with this article and I feel as if I am almost there. It makes me laugh because all of this is very true and you paint that very well and even explain why people do what they do.

    I liked the interviews from students who live on and off campus. I think that will be interesting to read and to see the differences because a lot of the reason why people move off campus is because of the meal plan. Yet, myself as a commuter, i still find myself eating in ‘the caf’ but only if Jordan will ‘swipe’ for me.

    I’m interested in where this will go.

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