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What Franklin lacks in style, it makes up in character

I’m going to come out and say it: Franklin cannot compete with Berkshire. Not in quality or looks or cleanliness. Dining Services has simply spent a whole load of money over the years making Berkshire the best dining hall it can be.

During summer orientation, we all get a taste of that Berkshire deliciousness: top-quality pancakes and bacon every morning, sushi and chicken caeser wraps for lunch, burgers and pizza for dinner. When people from other schools come to the University of Massachusetts to check out our dining program and give Dining Services all those awards, they get taken to Berkshire.

If that is how dining commons supremacy is judged, then I have lost indeed.

But allow me to convince you of a different way to judge a dining hall, perhaps the most important way: the intangibles. Franklin is awash in them, from the whole je ne sais quoi atmosphere provided by the huge windows at sunset to the local, organic and decentralized spread of dining options throughout it. The sandwiches, the salad bars, the stir fry line, kosher dining and all the others combine to create a retro feel. Dining in Franklin is like taking a step into the past to the multiethnic immigrant districts of major port cities like Boston and New York. Franklin is UMass’s culinary melting pot.

But more important, is the Franklin spirit.

Berkshire has had God knows how much money spent to provide it with the best and most state-of-the-art of everything. Franklin hasn’t, but it still succeeds brilliantly. It’s inspiring how well the great people at Franklin have done, how hard they must have worked. Their hard work has been rewarded with loyalty and devotion – Franklin defeated Worcester by nine votes in the first round of this tournament.

Franklin has earned all of its accolades and kudos and loyalty through the hard work its staff puts in day in and day out to keep the old, decaying place running smoothly and making sure its patrons are well-fed. Berkshire just sort of sits back like Goldman Sachs and watches the cash come in from Dining Services. Franklin is the George Bailey to Berkshire’s Mr. Potter from “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

All of my points from my original column still stand: Franklin has a strong community from the cozy, friendly, near-pastoral environment of Central and Orchard Hill. Franklin and its huge number of bulletin boards make it a perfect place to catch up on news and events.

Franklin isn’t perfect by any measure. The bathrooms are horrible, the first floor is kind of dreary and all the colors are cheesy pastels that must have looked bad when they were first painted. Now the colors seem to be mocking reminders of age and former glory. But all of its defects make sense when you consider all the money spent on Berkshire. When there’s no extra money, the cosmetics are the first thing to go.

But it’s still the best dining hall on campus. Franklin can be proud of its state. It’s real. Berkshire is a showpiece, an aberration, a carrot dangled in front of us to drive us onwards and convince us that sometimes things go right at this school. You go to Berkshire for your orientation and the guides talk about how many awards Dining Services has won and you experience how good the food there is and you think, “The other dining halls must be like that.”

That’s Berkshire. Lies and spin and laziness. Franklin tells it like it is. Franklin isn’t going to lie for the sake of some awards or to impress people. Franklin is one of us, especially if you use its nickname, Frank.

How much more down to Earth, good natured and honest could someone be than if they were named Frank? When I think of Berkshire I think of snooty preppy types with summer homes and names like “Winthrop Mather Lodge-Emerson, III, esq” with a trust fund, a home on Martha’s Vineyard and a semi-aristocratic genealogy more inbred than the Habsburgs.

Yes, it’s got fancy schmancy equipment and lots of HD TV’s and pretty comfortable seating and decent food, but the fact remains that Berkshire has gotten special treatment and received a lot of help to get where it is.

Franklin stands on its own two feet and its spirit is unparalleled on campus.

Come on people, show Frank some love.

Matthew M. Robare is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at mrobare@student.umass.edu.

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