Drawing of a plate of bacon, eggs, and toast inside a melting ice cube.
Drawing of a plate of bacon, eggs, and toast inside a melting ice cube. By Eileene Lee

Budgeting for Breakfast

What could we have compromised that was less necessary for our physical and mental well-being?
By Ellyssa J. Jeong and Ellie S. Klibaner-Schiff

A loss of $11 billion — something that could only happen in a Monopoly game for (most of) us, but for Harvard, it was reality. When the 2008 recession hit, Harvard’s endowment dropped from $37 billion to $26 billion. With its strapped leftovers, it had to make some adjustments: The College took away hot breakfast in all upperclassmen dining hall. The world was beginning to crumble. Bad choices were made, but surely, there had to be good reasons … right?

Except then, in 2009, Harvard invested in perhaps the most unassumingly pretentious item it could think of: colorful lawn chairs spotted around the Yard. What we thought were $30 aluminum chairs from IKEA turned out to be designer chairs from the Fermob Luxembourg Collection going for $475 apiece. Students might have lost out on a warm breakfast, but we had bold-colored chairs imported from France that nobody asked for to fill the gaping holes in our hearts (and now, stomachs). Thirteen years later, these chairs would end up as room decor for many freshmen, but it does make us wonder … what could we have compromised that was less necessary for our physical and mental well-being?

Harvard’s payment to the MBTA to run their trains slower under Wigglesworth Hall

As the folklore goes, when the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority wanted to extend the Red Line beyond the Harvard Square station, they tried to excavate a tunnel under the Yard. When Harvard objected, the MBTA took them to court. One executive order signed by George Washington later, Harvard won, saving the residents of Wigglesworth eight-minute intervals of earthquakes. The MBTA settled on building tracks to avoid the Yard, and some say that Harvard still pays the MBTA for their cooperation. For the dietary benefit of the entire university though, we feel like Wigg could’ve dealt with some noise … saving Harvard the hefty legal fees (and whatever they bribed George Washington with).

Children’s trains making laps in the dark around the Yard

Speaking of trains … Can we take a moment to reflect on the children’s electric train at Yardfest that people waited in line to squat in so they could parade around the Yard they walk in everyday? We must admit, the view must have been pretty crazy — the grass, trees at the corners of every patch of grass, lawn chairs spread out on the grass … have we mentioned the grass? Wild stuff.

Has anyone figured out Crimson Print?!

Harvard should have gotten rid of free printing and instead exploited its students by charging 12 cents a page to make up for its $11 billion in losses! Oh wait … it already did. We knew we hit a new low when we cried over trying to figure out Crimson Print (twice); we can’t afford to lose another cent after having lost so much to the washers and dryers.

Land. So. Much. Land. Since 2012, Harvard has spent over $100 million buying vineyards in California wine country. But since we have yet to see a Crimson Cabernet served with HUDS dinner, there’s really no need for Harvard to own all these grapes.

The century-old tortilla. If you want to pay a visit to an ancient chip, a 125-year-old tortilla is buried deep within the collections of the Harvard University Herbaria. Specifically, the tortilla hails from Mexico, was made from corn in 1897, and currently resides in the Economic Botany Herbarium of Oakes Ames — part of the Museum of Natural History.

Half of Bacow’s salary. In 2020, Harvard University President Lawrence S. Bacow earned $1.13 million. At Costco, a 10 pound bag of pancake mix costs $8.49. So unless Larry is buying 1,330,977 pounds of powdered buttermilk and flour each year, he doesn’t need that much money. And everybody needs hot breakfast, because, after all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.