Too much TV time poses dining distraction

by Maxford Nelsen

By most accounts, the remodeled dining hall and HUB expansion are significant improvements in décor, food quality and variety.

The goal to give the dining hall more of a “restaurant feel” was successfully achieved. If anything, the refurbished dining hall may be too much like many modern restaurants in one respect: the proliferation of TV screens.

To be sure, the menu and announcement displays are great, quickly and very visibly displaying the meal’s options. It is the giant screen showing sports with every meal that is the problem.

Students’ lives are already crammed with electronic media. Apparently we just cannot get enough football.

Brian Stelter of the New York Times reported three years ago that the average American spends 8.5 hours a day exposed to screens of some kind.

There are several reasons to preserve 30 minutes of dining space from being encroached by more TV.

For starters, not everyone wants to watch. Anecdotally, most students I have spoken to have agreed that they would rather not have the TV on during dinner. For some students, dinner is a time to tune out for a little while and relax from studying.

Some students like to be able to get a little reading or studying in. Others would simply like to be able to enjoy a hall dinner or a quiet conversation with a friend.

Indeed, the constant TV provides an all-too convenient escape from conversation.

While there are obviously those who appreciate TV, is it necessary to force everyone to have to deal with the giant screen for the sake of a few?

Well, you might say, just because the screen is there does not mean you have to look at it; just try.

On multiple occasions I have found myself distracted from a lovely meal with my fiancée by a touchdown or particularly painful-looking tackle. To add insult to injury, I do not even like football.

Unless you are willing and able to find refuge at one of the handful of tables beneath the screen, it is nearly impossible to avoid being attracted to the constant motion and flashes of the TV.

It is simply too distracting to avoid. Even if you are able to restrain yourself from watching, chances are one or more of the people you are eating with, and presumably talking with, will not be. With that said, there are those who really appreciate being able to watch sports during their meal.

There are a few ways that reasonable accommodations could be made for both sides. One solution could be limiting the number of nights the screen is shown to once or twice a week.

Another possibility would be leaving the flat screen TVs in the expansion on continuously, but discontinue use of the projector in the main dining hall.

That way, students would be able to choose where to sit based on whether they want to watch sports or not. Until that happens, however, in our media-saturated society, the last thing we need is continuous football in the dining hall.

Nelsen is a senior majoring in political science. Comments can be sent to

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