May 2, 2014
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written by krystle jiang
At Boston College, upperclassmen have two basic options for room & board – if you opt to have a kitchen, you are opting out of a mealplan. You can choose one of a few optional “Flex dining plans” or choose to buy “Dining Bucks”, but basically all these options are straight cash homie (ie they roll over year to year and can be refunded in total upon graduation). If you opt not to have a kitchen, you are signing on to a mandatory, non-refundable $2200/semester mealplan. This mealplan is kind of like buying a car – as soon as you pay the full value and drive out of the lot, the value of your car(d) instantly goes down a huge amount. People go around buying little 355 mL Odwallas for $4 a pop (that’s like 50 cents per gulp..) without feeling bad. That’s because they know $2200 is a lot for a semester and the goal is simply to use it all up (and actual cooked dining hall food sucks).
What happens junior year is this: a bunch of people have mealplans, and a bunch don’t. Those who do end up buying tons of food for those who don’t, because it’s just fake money, whatever. (I bought the smaller Flex plan and in 2 weeks I have maaybe used $30 of it. and I don’t cook.) However at some point, those who are generous with their funds are going to run low and at that point, their mealplan money is going to turn back into “real money” in their heads. But if you are ever in danger of running out of mealplan money, should it ever be considered “fake” in the first place? Whatever, that’s not my main question. My main question follows.
One of my friends has probably bought me $50 of dining hall food already. I can tell she’s getting weary, because yes, it is unfair. She could have consumed 12 extra Odwallas! I wish to pay her back by buying her off-campus food, but definitely not $50 worth. The question is, what’s the discount rate of mealplan food? If I buy her $10 at Chipotle, is that fair? What if I buy her $20 at Fin’s? $30? Additionally, does it matter that she buys for a lot of other people too (ie more in danger of running out)? What if I cook for her (even less “real money” involved, but more labor (and less tasty)). Ah, questions. Maybe I’ll just pay her in hugs. or make more underclassmen friends.
If you live within a 100 mile radius of Manhattan, you must’ve heard of the 53rd and 6th Halal Guys (also known as chicken and rice or platters). If you live under a rock and don’t know what I’m talking about, they’re a food truck located on the corner of 53rd St. and 6th Ave. and they sell chicken and rice platters. pretty self-explanatory. Anyway, I’ve been to the hot spot many times over the years, and every single time I’ve gone there’s been a line at least 20 people deep, regardless of the hour. I’ve heard a rumor that each Halal Guy makes $100k per year (though I’ve no clue how many there are), and another rumor that the Hilton offered the Halal Guys $2 million per year to not do business on that corner. Last night, wondering whether these rumors could be true, I decided to take on a little project to find out how much the Halal Guys make in a year.
My dear friend Eric and I watched the main cart for 20 minutes (while our friends were diligently waiting in line) and counted 24 platters sold, which is a rate of 1.2 platters/minute. Assuming the Halal Guys are in business 10 hours per night (7pm-5am), 365 days per year, and that there is a constant line and selling rate of 1.2 platters/minute and each platter sells for $6, the main cart brings in $1.58 million per year. The Halal Guys also have a secondary cart across the street, and if we assume they do half the business of the main cart (downtime, slower serving rate, etc), they bring in $788k per year for a total Halal Guys revenue of $2.37 million per year.
I don’t know how much they pay in taxes/production costs, but it seems totally feasible that each HG makes $100k per year. However, it must be false that they’d turn down $2mil to move one cart off the Hilton’s turf. This was confirmed when I asked a Guy whether the rumor was true- he chuckled and said, “Hey, give me $2 million. Give me 2 million and I’ll move right now!” Bummer, but hey it’s still an awesome business.
Three weeks ago, I was robbed. About $2000 in stuff was stolen from my room, and it was my own fault for having left my door unlocked, but it was still ridiculously unlucky that I was the only one robbed out of the entire dorm. (I had long chats with security and found this out). On the same night, I lost my purse with my wallet and all my credit cards, drivers license, and student ID. It was a devastating night. Anyway, I went through the motions and canceled my cards, ordered new ones, dealt with the police, and borrowed money from friends to stay alive. I put the stupid experience behind me and lock all my doors now. I got over it.
This morning, (3 weeks after the incident) I received an email from the International Students Office at UCL saying, “I believe you may have lost your purse including the cards listed above. This has been handed in to UCL” so come get them ASAP. I was so happy! I had gotten over my loss and thought that that stuff was forever gone, so thinking that I’d get my wallet and purse back was like getting new stuff for free. I ran on down to the office, only to find out that only an envelope with my cards had been mailed in. No wallet, no purse. Instead of coming upon $200 worth of stuff (wallet+purse+oystercards), I came upon £10 worth (oystercards) plus my drivers license. Obviously, this is still better than not having either of these things, but I was so upset! Logically, I gained £10 and saved a trip to the DMV. I should’ve been happy. Instead, I was even less happy than I was before I received the email in the first place.
Part of the reason I was upset is because some of my faith in humans was lost. As soon as I got the email, I felt that some faith in human goodness was restored. I thought that the cash would definitely be gone, but the fact that someone would take the time and effort to mail stuff to UCL (based on my student ID) was very kind. That faith was shattered when I found out that they kept my wallet and purse. Merely returning credit cards (that the user would obviously have canceled) would not assuage my guilt. But apparently it did for this person. That is shitty.
Another reason I was upset is that my expectations weren’t matched. This gives me an idea for an experiment-
group a) give people $10
group b) give people $10 and take it away
group c) give people $10, take it away, and then give them back $10
group d) give people $10, take it away, and then give them back $15
group e) give people $10, take it away, and then give them back $5
group f) give people $10, take it away, make them think they’re getting $10 then give them $10 (match expectations)
group g) give people $10, take it away, make them think they’re getting $10 then give them $15 (exceed expectations)
group h) give people $10, take it away, make them think they’re getting $10 then give them $5 (don’t meet expectations, but still gain)
I predict that people in group d would be the happiest, and perhaps people in (h) the saddest. I think (h) will be less happy than (b), even though they gain $5. What do you think?
I just checked out the Winners Bios of the 2012 Rhodes Scholars, and I’ve noticed something I find disturbing. The scholarship is awarded via geographic districts, and it seems that certain districts are much more qualified than others.
Check out someone from New England:
“Helen E. Jack, Hanover, is a senior at Yale with majors in molecular, cellular and developmental biology, and in international studies. A leader in Amnesty International from high school through college, she is also active in Physicians for Human Rights and the New Haven Syringe Exchange. Helen worked for the Earth Institute’s Millenium Cities Initiative in Ghana and is committed to public health reform and issues of health equity. She is also captain of the Yale club road running team and is a triathlete. She plans to do the M.Sc. in evidence-based social intervention at Oxford.”
(sentence 1) 2 totally different majors at an Ivy League school
(sentence 2) 3 clubs
(sentence 3) worked in Ghana
(sentence 4) triathlete! club captain
vs. someone from the South:
“Joshua D. Carpenter, Florence, is a 2010 graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a B.S. in accounting and economics. Josh is now a teacher with Teach for America in Marion, Alabama. Committed to education reform, he started a program to train students to prepare tax returns for low-income families, and taught writing and economics and math to students in the Birmingham city schools. Josh also served as a White House intern and co-captained UAB’s mock trial team. He plans to do the M.Phil. in comparative social policy at Oxford.”
(sentence 1) mediocre state school, average majors
(sentence 2 & 3) TFA & TFA
(sentence 4) white house intern and co-captain of a club
Sorry, but Josh is just much less impressive..
Correct me if I’m wrong, but quota-ing your admissions based on geographic location where certain locations are more competitive than others = affirmative action. And it seems to me that if you’re going to employ affirmative action, it should be along race/class lines, not geographic location. Racial inequality in America is much more severe of a problem than geographic inequality, and if you want to make steps towards correcting inequality in America, it makes more sense to target an area that has more potential for improvement.
I don’t really get why Rhodes distributes its scholarship the way it does. If it were aiming for a true meritocracy, I think all the winners would be from New England or California. However, they’re obviously looking for diversity by dividing it up by region. Why geographic diversity and not a more useful type of diversity like racial diversity, I don’t know…
One of the current trends running through the business and tech world is that of gamification, the use of game mechanics in non-game environments. It’s spread from innovative startups like Groupon and Foursquare to retail giants like Ford, and now proponents are arguing that we should gamify institutions like education and work. (Watch Seth Priebatsch: The Game Layer on Top of the World)
However, because game mechanics (i.e. experience points, leveling up, achievement badges, etc.) are basically rewards (read: extrinsic motivators), they are great for commercialization and influencing buying habits but they can be disastrous for motivating students to want to learn and for employees to want to work.
Read the paper here: The Dangers of Gamification: Why We Shouldn’t Build a Game Layer on Top of the World
follow me on twitter: @krystlejiang