Bellowing drums echo throughout the Duke Chapel, which is packed to the brim. I still can’t believe they rented out the marching band for this. Triumphant yet haunting fanfare resonates through the building, and a grim-faced procession of students walks out onto the stage. Suddenly, a booming voice cuts through the music with one word: “SILENCE.”
The music’s echo fades immediately, and the students on the stage quickly take their seats. Almost as if guided by one consciousness, the audience looks to the origin of the voice—a group of professors seated at the back of the Chapel, by the organ. They are to preside over today’s emergency tribunal, a rare full-body meeting of the Council of Economics Majors, the first in more than a decade. Although the room is silent, the tension is nearly deafening. Everyone in the room is aware of what hangs in the balance, and what is at stake should this meeting fail. The first student on the stage stands up, takes the podium, and bravely opens his mouth to speak.
“What if we made mobile orders into NFTs?”
This emergency meeting is intended to address the rapid food point inflation gripping campus. Although food point inflation has been capped at about 4% for many years, this year saw some dishes around campus rise in price by as much as 20%. The sudden change in cost has divided the student body, with different meal plans relegating students to drastically different lifestyles and social classes. Talking to ordinary students at dining halls shows how deep the divide goes, as I found while roaming campus one night around dinner time.
“This food point inflation has gone way too far,” says student Rand Taylor, in an interview near the entrance to WU. “Coffee prices have gone past $100 per gallon, and they show no signs of slowing down! I blame President Price. We need to stop being reliant on foreign coffee, and start making more of it on-campus. I get supply chain issues or whatever, but why are they affecting ME? What’s next, a pasta shortage? If I can’t get my Il Forno, I’m dropping out and going to UNC.”
Not all students agreed with this assessment, though, as I heard from student Alex Warren on the BC plaza. “Oh, please. Did you go to Farmstead to find that quote? All you’ll find around there is the entitled Plan C bourgeoisie, waving around their food points like it’s nothing. If you want to hear from the common man, living food point to food point on Plan A, take interviews near Panda Express. As for me, I don’t think Price is to blame at all - what could the president possibly do?"
Many departments have proposed various solutions to the crisis, but nothing so far has been able to stop the meteoric rise of dining prices. Stymied by hours of filibustering, the Political Society of Political Scientists’ only resolution was a suggestion for The Loop to launch an armed invasion of McDonald’s. In a rare collaboration, the Statistical Studies Department and the Math Student Union released a statement that just said “Yep, that inflation rate is pretty high.” Hopes are high, though, that the Council of Economics Majors will be able to channel the sheer analytical power of the crypto bros and Reddit day traders across campus to decide on a meaningful course of action and stop food point inflation before campus tumbles into a recession.
Now, at the tribunal, the representative from the Duke Blockchain Lab finishes his speech. His motion to make food points a cryptocurrency and move mobile orders to the blockchain was deeply moving, powerfully revolutionary, and almost entirely incomprehensible. Everyone around me is nodding as though that made sense, and so I do the same, not wanting to seem left out. One of the moderating professors announces that this plan will be added to the list of resolutions to vote on, and the next speaker is called to the stand.
The next two hours are a whirlwind of innovative solutions and inspiring speeches. One student recommends replacing chicken with squirrel meat at most establishments to drive down costs, while another suggests replacing CMA offices in the Bryan Center with a Trader Joe’s to give students diverse food options. A motion to privatize WU gains a rush of support until someone points out that all of the WU restaurants are already privately owned. I can feel the crowd around me pulsing like a beating heart. The hopes and dreams of the entire student body are at stake in this room, and the rush of community overwhelms me as we move towards a solution to fix our economy forever.
Suddenly, a lone man stands up from the audience. We all fall silent as he makes his way up to the podium. A bellowing voice echoes from the professors’ balcony.
“THIS IS NOT ON THE AGENDA. WHO ARE YOU, TO STAND BEFORE THIS COUNCIL UNANNOUNCED?”
“My name is Milton Smith. I’m not on the agenda because I’m only on-campus for one night. I’m abroad this semester doing an internship at Goldman Sachs.”
A hush falls over the crowd. We are in the presence of a business genius.
“Personally, I think this is a question of fiscal responsibility. If Duke students can’t manage their food point budget, that shouldn’t be on us. It’s time for the community to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and take an extra work study, or be more frugal at WU. This could all be fixed if the student body just fixed their spending habits, and it’s not our job as economists to make the economy better.”
The words echo through the auditorium. A beat passes. Then, a professor breaks the silence with a slow clap. Soon, the whole council has erupted into applause; the students on stage are delivering a standing ovation. And just like that, the meeting is over. As I get up to leave, I see hundreds of happy economics majors expressing their joy, shaking hands and patting backs, congratulating themselves on yet another crisis solved.
Monday Monday is living off of the $5 Daily Deals and food they win from squirrels in trash can brawls. Their column runs every other Monday, unless they run out of food points and starve.
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