The Radcliffe waiting-on program, which requires all freshmen and some sophomores in the brick dormitories to spend two to five hours per week waiting on table or drying dishes, has outlived its usefulness. Instituted during the Second World War to cut down kitchen expenses, the program was commendable at first as a war-time economy. Unfortunately, the program has recently taken on particular significance in the minds of College officials. The claim today is that Radcliffe students learn to assume personal responsibility through the experience of serving as a part-time waitress.
If this contention were true, it still would not present a valid reason for retaining the system. Radcliffe students, who have the right to cut an unlimited number of classes and live under a social honor system, are hardly in need of further opportunity to learn self-discipline.
Higher considerations aside, the waiting-on program is run with a minimum of efficient organization and a maximum of wasted effort. Most of the students involved--the number varies from four to eleven for each meal, depending on the size of the dormitory--scurry around the dining room getting in one another's way. The others dry dishes which, if left for five minutes, would dry better in the air. Naturally enough, the student waitress deplores the time she wastes in this fashion and hurries the meal as much as possible. The inevitable result is that College meals are eaten in an atmosphere of great haste, which tends to make them unenjoyable occasions for diners as well as for waitresses.
Probably the best solution, from the standpoint of efficiency and in the interests of gracious living, would be a staff of professional waitresses. Radcliffe has no money for such an extravagance, but there is an alternate solution--a system under which all students would pay a slightly higher price for room and board. Girls in need of extra money might wait on tables for a small but reasonable salary. Consequently, the system would create a new area of student employment, in which several girls could make a substantial sum of money each year. The program would also free those who dislike waiting-on and would institute a relatively small, regular staff of waitresses willing to put in the time and effort required.
Despite the advantages of this plan, similar suggestions have been opposed in the past on the grounds that they might tend to create an "undemocratic" class society composed of the "laborers" and the "idle rich." The danger of creating such class distinctions in Radcliffe's liberal society seems relatively remote. Since a paid student staff would offer valuable job opportunities, operate more efficiently, and free other students from a time-consuming and pointless task, the Radcliffe Administration should seriously consider this method of replacing the waiting-on program.