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More than 30 undergraduates living in Cronkhite Center, a former graduate student dormitory currently serving as overflow housing, have signed onto a petition urging administrators to serve hot food within the building’s dining hall.
This year, 11 of the 12 upperclassman houses have been forced to accommodate students in separate overflow housing. Some students who normally reside in the Radcliffe Quadrangle houses are currently living in Cronkhite Center, which is located next to the Admissions Office and roughly a 15-minute walk from their houses.
Cronkhite serves continental breakfast, bagged lunch, and Brain Break snacks. Despite living remotely, Cronkhite students are expected to eat hot food in their respective dining halls located in the Quad — an unnecessary burden, some residents say.
The petition, which has garnered 36 signatures, calls on Harvard administrators to open and fund Cronkhite Center’s own dining hall, citing inequity and harm to house culture. The petition was sent to Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, Dean of Students Katherine G. O’Dair, and the faculty deans of the Quad houses on Sept. 6.
“This policy burdens all Cronkhite students, either because of the tight scheduling that tends to happen around lunch and dinner windows or because of chaotic events in our lives that necessitate being able to quickly grab food,” the petition reads.
“Many of us will wind up not eating—or only eating snacks—for certain meals, which disproportionately hurts those of us who are low-income and don't have the financial means to regularly eat out for $15 meals in Cambridge,” it continues.
Author Matt C. Mauriello ’24-25 wrote in the petition that the lack of in-house dining hall access has negatively impacted the mental and physical health of Cronkhite students, particularly those of first-generation, low-income backgrounds.
Matthew M. Kim ’25, who signed the petition, said the lack of dining hall access in Cronkhite is financially “unfair” to its residents.
“We found it unfair how we're paying the same board as everybody else, but everyone has access to their own d-hall,” he said.
Kim suggested the College reimburse Cronkhite residents through a stipend like Board Plus, a request also stated in the petition.
Cronkhite resident Sebastian G. Herrera ’25 said there is no “quick access” to hot meals for students living in the building. Herrera, who did not sign the petition, said he would have if he had known about the effort.
“I don't like ordering [food],” he said. “I don't like wasting money, but if it's raining, you have to go out in the rain and get your food.”
Gemma C. Rushton ‘25, who did not sign the petition, said she is sometimes forced to eat meals that are not nutritious.
“Some nights, if I work late, then I miss dinner or something, I end up just having a bagel for dinner, which is not the most balanced, super nutritious meal,” she said.
Currier House Faculty Deans Latanya Sweeney and Sylvia Barrett wrote in an email response to the petition that student concerns were “heartfelt and credible.”
The deans wrote that they are exploring possible options with the College though “decisions are beyond the house itself.”
“The time seems ripe now, at the beginning of the term before snow falls and courses get too demanding, to find a win-win sustainable solution,” the deans wrote. “Your message seems to want the same too.”
Sweeney and Barrett also offered to meet with the signatories and College and University administrators to discuss the concerns.
When asked about the student petition, Associate Dean of Students Lauren Brandt said in a Monday interview that the College views mealtime gatherings as one of the “crucial elements” of residential life.
“The hope, as I understand it, is really to encourage students to connect with their house communities and the meals that are offered in their dining halls,” she said.
Still, some Cronkhite students say the physical distance between Cronkhite and their traditional houses makes back-and-forth travel difficult.
Rushton said that adding a shuttle stop directly in front of Cronkhite would be helpful. Five Harvard shuttle routes include a stop at Radcliffe Yard, a roughly five-minute walk from Cronkhite Center.
Herrera said “Cronkhite being part of Cabot means nothing.”
“If you were to ask if I feel disconnected from Cabot, then, yeah, for sure,” he said. “Whenever there's Cabot events, I never go.”
“It's so ridiculously far,” he added.
— Staff writer Audrey M. Apollon contributed reporting.
— Staff writer Dekyi T. Tsotsong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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