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COLUMN

Aramark Buried by Snow

Philip Burrowes

As neither an educational nor Aramark administrator -- of course the Castor and Pollux of undergraduate life -- I may not be in the position to question the validity of the this week’s various ad hoc scheduling. The manner in which these changes were brought to the attention of those involved, at least at the lower levels (such as clerks and students), was, however, obviously unacceptable. While the shifts have gone on without any substantial hitches, notification was often unofficial or official but contradictory. That there weren’t more problems is indeed fortunate.

Classes on Monday after 3 p.m. were suspended across the board, but news of the decision traveled much more chaotically. Some people received forwarded messages from reputable sources such as house managers or instructors for specific classes. For many the information was relayed through what amounted to little more than the educated gossip of their peers. It is true that this “method” reached a sizable portion of campus, but the giant game of telephone left others in a state of limbo.

Tuesday would be little better, for although by that point 253-SNOW had been added to more students’ proverbial Rolodexes, there would be individual finagling after the initial report of an open Institute. Instructors couldn’t show up for classes, Sloan closed belatedly due to lack of facilities, and students opted not to show rather than brave the constant snowfall. That other schools across the metropolitan area were shutting down -- whether by choice or necessity -- did not do much to strengthen any group’s resolve.

Of secondary but genuine importance was Aramark’s theoretically improvised dining plan (or lack thereof). While dining director Rich Berlin sent out an e-mail enumerating Tuesday’s schedule, he neglected to mention non-trivial sites such as Pritchett and the Building 4 Coffee Shop. Actual signs on the cafeterias told conflicting stories: the Bio CafÉ instructed patrons to visit Eastside; Eastside suggested regulars go to Lobdell (although their respective demographics are so different that an E19 local had to ask me where this “Lobdell” was); Refresher Course said it was closing because of weather then stayed open an hour longer than Berlin specified. I can at least feign understanding of the sovkhoz methodology behind closing satellite locations, but hunger is not an emotion to be toyed with otherwise.

Not everything’s execution was so objectionable. Those conscientious students could have easily assessed the situation through visits to MIT and Aramark’s websites. Those dining areas still open obviously provided adequate sustenance. Domino’s deliverymen were only delayed by a few dozen minutes in performances befitting a Croix de Guerre. Artistically inclined students dotted the campus with tasteful snowmen. Most importantly, snowplows were out en masse to clear major pathways lest pedestrians find ice upon awaking.

Well, then, what’s the problem, you might ask? We’re not all, obviously, as completely informed as we should be. With website updates (from Aramark no less!) on top of forwarded e-mails on top of our faculty on top of 253-SNOW, the administration stopped just short of giving individuals wake-up calls. While we don’t have a PA system, a heavily watched network of Institute television channels, or even a student body insociable enough that everybody could be caught by their phones, it just seems risky to rely on hearsay as some sort of latter-day Pony Express. Why, it’s enough to make someone run out of oddly juxtaposed analogies.