Journalist: gourmet dining hall food perpetuates rich-poor gap
New Yorker staff writer Malcolm Gladwell recently blasted Bowdoin College for discriminating against poor students by serving high quality food in its dining halls.
In his podcast Revisionist History, Gladwell explained in a recent episode that Bowdoin’s “immoral choice” to serve quality food makes it exceedingly more difficult for other colleges to close the gap between the rich and poor in society.
“If you're looking at liberal arts colleges, don't go to Bowdoin,” Gladwell asserted. “Don't let your kids go to Bowdoin. Don't let your friends go to Bowdoin. Don't give money to Bowdoin or to any other school that serves amazing food in its dining hall.”
Indeed, Bowdoin does serve luxurious, gourmet meals, while other colleges like Vassar serve food that is so bad that it has even caused students to experience digestive problems, according to Gladwell.
Gladwell then argues that Bowdoin’s gourmet food has made it more difficult for Vassar College President Catherine Hill to attract highly qualified students.
“Because every time you support a school that spends its money on amazing food, every time you cast a vote in favor of eggplant parmesan pancakes and lobster bakes and venison during deer season, you're making it harder and harder for someone like Catherine Hill to create opportunities for poor kids,” Gladwell contends. “Suck it up and go to Vassar. Send a message to the Bowdoins of the world about what really matters.”
The episode bashing Bowdoin’s spending choices did not sit well with the Brunswick, Maine liberal arts college.
In fact, Bowdoin fired back in a statement calling the journalists’ intentions “disingenuous, dishonest, and manipulative.”
“Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast ‘Revisionist History’ (aptly named) takes a manipulative and disingenuous shot at Bowdoin College that is filled with false assumptions, anecdotal evidence, and incorrect conclusions,” the statement read.
In its statement, Bowdoin also pointed to its generosity towards need-based students, noting that Bowdoin is one of fifteen colleges that not only provides need-based admissions, but also meets 100 percent of those needs through grants.
Gladwell, though, told Mother Jones that the purpose of the episode was to point out the fact that colleges have skewed their priorities.
"The function of a college is to educate them and to prepare them to climb the social and economic ladder and make the best of their talents once they graduate," he explained. "If in that four-year window they live in a crappy dorm and eat crappy food, who cares—if they're getting an education."
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