Freshies in the Canteen


Alex Boutwell

Artist Alex Boutwell captures the perspective of a freshman looking at the junior/senior-infested Canteen.

There is one unspoken law associated with the Canteen that seems to be known by all: “Beware, freshmen, the canteen is not for you.” The Canteen exists as a haven for upperclassmen looking to escape lower grade levels. Every grade seems to understand that a freshman in the canteen would be a fish out of water. Even so, we ventured into the junior and senior-infested building to investigate this unwritten rule and discover if there were actually consequences.

As soon as we, Kate Youell and Isabel Schimpff, entered, we turned heads and bewildered looks became our welcome wagon. The two of us took our seats, with cognizance of our lunch break becoming a story in the making.

KATE: I am not a super out-there person, but I was not at all scared to go into the canteen. What’s the worst that could happen? We had senior bodyguards sporadically sitting throughout. So other than stares nothing could happen.

Hierarchies and hangout spots are a classic trope as old as comics. Everyone has their own spot like in the comics, but what happens when people are out of place? Isabel and I answered this question.

ISABEL: You can’t sugarcoat it; the canteen is a horrifying place for freshmen. Having to constantly worry about how people perceive me makes me envy Kate’s “What’s the worst that could happen?” mindset.

Over the petrifying week of having lunches in the Canteen, I came to recognize that mentality plays an enormous part in the subliminal warnings against underclassmen entering the dining center. As a freshman, stares directed at you, comments about you, and pictures of you from Canteen regulars are just the beginning.

If that is not enough deterrence for you, the social hierarchy should be.

KATE: I don’t know when the rumor started that freshmen are not allowed, but the upperclassmen didn’t seem to really care as long as you’re not obnoxious. I feel like that could apply to every grade, meaning that any grade is welcome.

ISABEL: Students on campus comprehend the pecking order of grade levels. This gives a rewarding feeling to the upperclassmen who have waited their turn to occupy the turf. When a group of people break the status quo and ignore rules that seem to be understood, people of dominance become territorial and, to me, terrifying. There is an ingrained “We suffered, so now you have too” mindset from the upperclassmen.

KATE: The first day Isabel and I went undercover there wasn’t much drama. But that changed the final day we did this social experiment. We sat at the most popular table in the Canteen. Mind you, this is where all the senior football players usually sit. Isabel and I are both under 5’8 and are your basic definition of friendly.
But our smiling exteriors were put to the test when a varsity football player confronted us.
People made comments for the whole 55-minute lunch periods, including things like “What are they doing here?” “Freshmen are allowed?”

ISABEL: When I was seated, half of me was covered by a table and my short, 5’3 frame was hidden. but as I stood up and headed for the sandwich line, I could hear more people releasing that I was out of place. While the food is delectable, it comes with the price tag of long lines which become longer with whispers and glances. Sitting in the Canteen, anxiety was my dominant emotion throughout the entire process.

KATE: The canteen is a good place to relax with friends. With the highly upperclassmen populated attendees it is hard to decide if the building is worth the risk. If you’re a freshman I say go for it.

ISABEL: Even with my small group of friends causing little ruckus, we were still the talk of the building. If you are a freshman looking for an adrenaline rush, I suggest bungee jumping or cliff diving, and leave the canteen for another time.