You can't underestimate the intelligence of the Penn administration. H.L. Mencken said that. And you know what? He was right. The most recent example is the University's decision to close McClelland Marketplace and the Quad commissary because, in the words of one administrator, "we were opening up Houston [Market]." The nicest thing that can be said about this decision is that the administration is confused. Perhaps they thought that "Perelman Quadrangle" was a new name for the old Quadrangle and decided to close McClelland because, as everyone knows, no quadrangle needs more than one marketplace. Or maybe some administrator overheard a student saying that there were too many convenience stores on campus. And so, ever sensitive to student needs and responsive to their concerns, the administration quickly shut down the Quad commissary. But my own best guess is this: The administration has decided that every time students ask for more cheap retail, Penn will close another convenience store. Clap your hands, Uni-Mart dies. Clap again, there goes the Quad commissary. Wanna try for three? Everyone on this campus -- from Judith Rodin on down --pays lip service to the idea that there should be more cheap retail on campus. Many people -- members of the Penn administration included -- also happen to think that we should have more high-end retail. Well and good. But if you think we need more cheap stores and you think we need more high-end stores, then the one thing you probably don't want to do is close down stores of any kind. University administrators, like the wise men of Chelm, have an answer for this: They say that the stores are being closed because they have been replaced. The arrival of Freshgrocer.com and Houston Market has obviated the need for Uni-Mart and the Quad commissary. McClelland Marketplace is no longer needed. Good point, guys. Except for a couple of minor details. For one thing, there is no Freshgrocer.com. It's just a big construction site. And until it actually opens (in June... August... November...) it's really not much of a replacement for anything. Which brings us to the idea that Houston Market is going to replace the Quad commissary. Does Houston Market sell toilet paper or laundry detergent? Can you buy a loaf of bread and a container of peanut butter there? Are they going to start stocking cases of soda or boxes of cereal? Of course not. Because Houston Market is a food court. And if it seems to you that this is transcendentally obvious, so obvious that even a Penn administrator could not miss it, then you, too, have just proved H.L. Mencken's maxim: You can't underestimate the intelligence of the Penn administration. But let's grant, for the sake of the argument, that the stores are redundant. So what? Why do administrators think that a store needs to be closed every time a new one is opened? I, for one, have never met a student who thinks that there are too many convenience stores on campus. The very name convenience belies the idea that there could be too many. In our own private heavens, each of us would no doubt like to have a convenience store in our basements. So is it really too much to ask for the University to keep a convenience store in the basement of the four biggest dormitories on campus? If Penn really feels it needs to change something about the commissaries, I have a modest proposal. Extend the hours, expand the selection and hire people to staff the stores during finals. You'll note that I've carefully omitted "close them down" from the list.Comments powered by Disqus
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