By Roeland van Beek, Class of 2011
I’m looking for the owner of Dining Hall card 555. I owe this person four euros and an apology. I’m also looking for the responsible, critical and inventive students that UCU aims to educate – where did they go?
Here’s what I did: I downloaded the first free barcode font Google gave me, chose a plausible number and printed it in Voltaire. With the code attached to the back of my high-school student ID, I went to Dining Hall. I took some food, scanned my piece of paper at the register, and the meal was mine. Turns out there is such a thing as a free lunch!
During the past few months everybody seemed to believe in protesting against the system. Regular cafeteria prices were too high for UCU students (speaking of elitist), Dining Hall forced people to be or not to be vegetarian, and depriving people of daily all-you-can-eat buffets was like a crime against humanity. Not that the alternatives were much better: making the meal plan optional, really?
I offer a box of chocolates to the first to come up with a sensible reason to pay for an entire semester if you can also pay per meal. And didn’t we all apply to UCU to live in a pseudo-America? If there’s one country where mandatory meal plans are common, it’s the US.
But who still cares about the system? I just told you I ate off an innocent student! Do you know why your bank card has a pin code? Why you shouldn’t put more than twenty euros on your Chipknip? Why the protection of public transport cards is such a big deal? Why there’s a picture on your passport? Why credit card numbers are super-secret? Because only you should be able to use them!
Now think about it: what protects your Dining Hall card? Absolutely nothing! You’ve been walking around campus with a 750-euro bank note in your pocket. It’s like a bank card with the pin code written on the back. Actually, worse than that: it’s like a credit card with a guessable number. People don’t even have to steal your card to be able to abuse it. You might just be victim 555. If you should be protesting against anything, it is this. Like, right now.
Meanwhile, there is still hope for the international students who lost their Dining Hall jobs: invest a few euros in a stack of plastic cards, glue random barcodes to them and sell them to School of Economics students as Unlimited Lunch Cards. That is campaigning.