Section: Opinion

Kenyon should enforce stricter guidelines for line etiquette

A couple of months ago at Peirce Dining Hall, I found myself in a situation that has since given me plenty of food for thought — quite literally. I was patiently waiting in line for my meal when the person ahead of me was joined by a friend. Initially, I shrugged it off. However, as we progressed, their duo turned into a trio, and then more friends joined at each few steps until their number swelled to six. With each new addition, my wait time increased, nudging my patience closer to its limit.

This incident, while seemingly minor, highlights a broader issue of line etiquette and its impact on community dynamics at Kenyon. When does the act of joining friends in line cross from a simple social interaction to an inconvenience — or even an injustice — to others waiting?

Here, the practice of cutting in line, while fostering companionship, has at least one clear negative externality: additional waiting time on those behind. This raises the question: How can we balance the desire for social interaction with respect for communal space and fairness?

Reflecting on this, I propose a set of guidelines aimed at maintaining a respectful and efficient atmosphere in our dining hall lines:

1. Rule of Fair Addition: Limit the number of people who can join an existing line group to two people. This ensures that any addition to a line group remains minor and doesn’t lead to disproportionate delays for those already waiting.

2. Line Progress Principle: The acceptability of joining decreases farther down the line. Early in the line? It’s more permissible. Approaching the serving area? New additions should be discouraged out of fairness to those who have been waiting longer. There are no strict criteria; simply be guided by human decency.

3. Plate Prohibition: Joining should not be allowed in the area where people are already serving themselves food. This final stretch of the line should be reserved for those who have waited their turn.

4. Courtesy Cutback: If someone joins the line ahead of an individual or group, thereby extending their wait, and they’re feeling bold, those affected are permitted to move ahead of the newly formed group. This rule gives those affected by line-cutting a chance to assertively manage their time without escalating the situation.

These rules ensure that people will always have company as they wait and that there isn’t a small minority who join the meal late. For those who might see these proposed rules as too restrictive, it’s worth considering that even if everyone adhered to them, the additional wait time for those at the end of the line could still increase. However, these guidelines are crafted with fairness in mind — striking a delicate balance that slightly adjusts, but does not overhaul, our existing habits at Peirce. 

The purpose of these rules is to find a compromise between individual fairness and our communal dining experience. While the fundamental rule in most lines is that no one should cut in line, we recognize that occasional, minimal exceptions can serve the social fabric of our campus without causing significant disruption. For instance, if three people are already in line and a fourth friend arrives late, allowing this one additional person to join can preserve a group’s dining plan without notably extending the wait for others. However, allowing several people to join one individual in line disrupts the balance, significantly increasing wait times and reducing fairness. While we permit minimal additions to support social interactions — there must be a clear cutoff to prevent abuse of this leniency.

Peirce is both a place to socialize and a place to eat — somewhere that becomes especially important as finals approach. While catching up over a meal is a cherished part of our day, it’s also important to recognize that some of us are on tighter schedules. Just a bit of awareness and consideration from each of us would go a long way.

Dylan Sibbitt ’26 is a political science major from San Francisco. He can be reached at sibbitt1@kenyon.edu.

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