A two-panel cartoon in the 1914 Mirror summed up student opinion of the new men’s dining commons at John Bertram. Titled “Tragedy in Two Scenes,” the first panel depicted the dinner menu: “beans, no catsup.” The second panel showed the breakfast menu: “Oatmeal, with catsup.”
From that uncertain start (until then, Bates students ate off campus) would grow a Bates reverence for community dining, and today Bates is poised to spend eight figures affirming that ideal, announcing plans to build new dining commons, as well as a new residential cluster (see story, page 6).
Whether it’s a family digesting their day around a dinner table or 600 students in Memorial Commons chattering about March Madness, thesis, or Iraq, the magic of mealtime is the same as it ever was. “In the pleasure of eating…cheered by the music of the knives and forks, [students] are ready to discuss anything, from the weightiest matters of state to the last ball game or worst ‘flunk,’” the The Bates Student noted way back in 1887.
Later, amidst the hard-core work ethic of Bates in the 1960s, President Reynolds added a missing ingredient to student life — leisure! — by relaxing social rules and giving students more control of time and space. Reynolds’ first step symbolized this Bates glasnost: He closed the women’s dining hall at Rand and inaugurated coed dining at Memorial Commons, promising “gracious, leisurely dining.”
Students, in full voice for bigger changes, gave the move mild approval, since any coed benefit was offset by overcrowding. “Graciousness is not enhanced when students wander around…trying to see if you have finished dessert so they may have a seat,” noted the Student.
Better days were ahead. Short Term, initially designed to hustle students through Bates in three years, succeeded for the opposite reason: It offered more time, either “to go off chasing ideas,” as Professor of Physics Robert Kingsbury said, or for other delights. A year before the Summer of Love, the ’66 Short Term blew the collective Bates student mind. “Coed everything!” enthused a student after Short Term. “That made it better!”
Today, trying to rally around leisure can feel like championing the cause of the endangered elfin tree fern. It’s probably important, but gee whiz. As President Hansen said in her inaugural address, “We need…undisciplined time — time to listen, speak, think, imagine. What I am talking about is endangered because it looks like unproductive time, the rarest of commodities in a world that measures everything by its outcome.”
Restaurateur Deborah Hansen de Haro ’86, profiled on page 42, gets the concept, too, and she works darn hard so her customers have time to smell the pinchos. Her own Short Term in Spain, where food, says writer Doug Hubley, “is more than fuel,” partly inspired de Haro to open the restaurant. “We spend so many hours working,” she says. “We need to stop and focus on pleasures.”
H. Jay Burns, Editor