Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Morning Wood: New Grab’n Arms at Grab n’ Go is University waste at its prime

But they are pretty sick
(Scared of tomato sauce/Daily Collegian)

Waiting in line at Franklin Dining Common’s Grab n’ Go can be hectic. I’ve been there. I’ve got a carton of orange chicken in one hand, a paper bag and my UCard in the other, some snacks under the crook of my arm and somehow, I’m supposed to make a mad dash to grab napkins and forks in the hustle. All the while I’m packing my things and filling up a cup with lemonade and another with coffee.

But these problems can be solved with patience. So, when the University of Massachusetts decided to buy supplemental mechanical arms (known as “Grab’n Arms”) to improve the Grab n’ Go experience, I couldn’t help but wonder if the move is just another effort to remain the country’s No. 1 dining program at the expense of tuition-paying students.

According to Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, who excitedly introduced this new resource on Wednesday, “These arms readily attach to your bicep and give you more freedom in the Grab  n’ Go line. Thanks to state-of-the-art, sustainable neurotechnology, they connect to your brain externally, allowing you to ‘grab more at go’ and expedite time in line.”

What Subbaswamy neglects to mention is that this convenience, worth maybe a few saved moments in line, costs the University a whopping $326 million. This will result in a tuition rise of approximately $15,000 per student. Considering that tuition rates are already skyrocketing, this proposition is ludicrous. I’m not ready to pay that much for these toys and according to the website, I’m not alone.

The company that sold these arms, M.W. Technologies, is the biggest winner of all. This multi-million-dollar deal will help the company expand and sell similar products to other college campuses. I can’t believe the University is even doing business with a company that helped fund every single oil pipeline in America. Subbaswamy’s invocation of “sustainable” is so far out of line. This is not ecologically or financially sustainable. The word is now irreparably broken.

I could go on about safety regarding Grab’n Arms. There are numerous reports of students being physically attacked by these gadgets and on Thursday, a student used a Grab’n Arm to punch someone else in line over the last tray of sushi. This is unacceptable.

About 19 students took part in a protest outside the Student Union on Friday, demanding that the school cancels its pilot program, cuts the deal and brings tuition back to normal levels. Surprisingly, they were met with vitriolic opposition. I spoke to one counter-protester who told me this: “I didn’t take this whole ‘number one dining’ thing seriously until we got these Grab’n Arms. Seriously, my life is changed. These kids just like to protest, you know? I get that we gotta pay more, bro, but you know, just a few grand or whatever. Still cheaper than going downtown to eat, am I right?”

I have to admit that the additional arm makes a big difference in line. When I tried it for the first time, I was able to carry my food with my Grab’n Arm, allowing me to have a normal human interaction with the person at the counter. After pocketing my card and opening my bag (with two hands!), I used the Grab’n Arm to slide my orange chicken and sugar cookie in. The best part was that I could grab my fork and napkin with my third arm while I went for the beverages and since the exchanges were so brief, I didn’t have to block the entire passageway to get my goods. It is a big sell.

But it’s not worth 15 grand.

It’s foolish to me — prioritizing fun gadgets over affordability when so many students come here for financial opportunity. I know the situation in the Frank Grab n’ Go station is dire, but come on. There are better uses of our tuition money.

Jimbo Zamaraski V. can be found sleeping in one of the egg chairs in the basement of the library.

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