The Tragedy of the Commons

Throughout my freshman year at Tufts, I’ve greatly appreciated most of the dining options available, even though Carm’s cereal selection has been subpar lately. From the Hodge to Carm to Moe’s, there’s plenty of good food. Especially for a college campus. But there’s one place that doesn’t get a ton of hype outside of Friday nights. The Commons Marketplace is a landmark in the Campus Center that serves as a meeting spot, a feeding spot, and more. I also recently learned that it’s open outside of Friday and Saturday nights. It sells a variety of items, from tacos to overpriced salads, energy drinks, and niche items like ItoEn green tea and kombucha. It’s a great place to grab a quick on-the-go meal or a snack. Sadly, it has one downside— I found out the hard way that from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. you can’t use a meal swipe there. The Commons only accepts USD and JumboCash. So, unfortunately, the other day, I spent about $9.75 on a can of tea and some sushi. At that moment, I was annoyed. I could have spent that money on a high quality meal in Davis Square, more Chex Mix, or a fair amount of Naturally Light substances. Also, it felt unfair that I couldn’t use my meal swipes to get some cool snacks outside of Hodgdon. Over a few days, I realized that if the Commons were to count as a meal swipe, long grueling, Hodgdon-esque lines would turn the small area into a fire hazard, more workers would probably need to be hired, and the costs would be too high. But more importantly, I was given a grim reminder about the costs of our meal swipes. They’re worth about $10, and maybe that’s a reasonable deal for a large meal, and the food here is satisfactory. But at times, especially at the Commons, there seems to be a significant amount of price gouging.

I’m often bothered by the expensive prices of food on campus. I understand that workers deserve to be paid reasonably and that the market should be efficient, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not annoyed every time I see that a box of Raisin Bran at Hodgdon costs $6. I don’t want to complain about having the opportunity to buy food on campus. I appreciate the fact that I don’t have to take the T to H-Mart in Cambridge in order to buy Green tea from Japan. It’s something nice, and I understand the general economics behind it. Since there’s no real alternatives to food while on campus, universities can increase their prices and make more money off of students desperate enough to pay more. However, unfortunately, these prices also apply to our dining halls. A meal from Carm or Dewick is served at restaurant prices. I suppose the mark-up takes students stealing stuff into consideration, but I find it unfair that practically every on-campus meal must be paid for at this price, and that all freshmen need to buy into this program that’s intentionally expensive. It’s assumed that the majority of students at Tufts are pretty wealthy, and a majority are very well-off. But that doesn’t mean that students should be victims of price gouging. It would be one thing if these profits were going directly into a beneficial purpose such as funding for educational departments, but as a cynical person, I feel as though these profits may be going somewhere else. I’m pretty sure they’re not going towards the nice lady that I sometimes see emptying the trashcan or cleaning the bathroom floor. Campus price gouging is a clever idea for producers, and I’d like to see that evil manipulation used to do some more good on college campuses.

It would be nice to know exactly where the profits from my meals are actually going. At least when I’m spending money for a calzone at Helen’s, I know it’s going to the people with Boston accents that work the place. But what about Tufts? With my education here, I’ve learned about concepts such as the tragedy of the commons and tragedies such as the Colombian government’s struggle to maintain sovereignty. One tragedy that Tufts doesn’t directly teach is that of the tragedy of its own Commons. That tragedy is that only a few amount of people are truly benefiting from the manipulated revenue. I know I’m being cynical here, but wouldn’t it be nice to know where these profits from the Commons are going?



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