By Alessandra Colella
“You can’t sit with us”- the infamous line from the classic high school movie Mean Girls. This line is the epitome of exclusion. We are always told to never exclude, and our teachers and principals constantly try to find activities to promote inclusion. However, this can prove hard when there are only 8 seats at a lunch table. How are children supposed to be inclusive when the number of seats at a lunch table is limited just like at HCC in middle school?
The middle school is where things began to get tricky. At lunch, even when students wanted to be inclusive, sharing seats was not allowed. This resulted in immediate exclusion and feelings of being left out. When you weren’t at a certain lunch table, you were excluded from the conversation and gossip- the most important topic at the time. Worse, more often than not, students are defined by who they sit with at lunch, and unfortunately, it is the cafeteria where groups are formed and cliques are solidified.
With the remodel of the cafeteria, including the greatly coveted Byram Bean, also came the addition of new tables. Only a few of the old long, blue tables with benches from past years remain. Instead, there are tables with singular seats (eight or six), some round tables, some of the original tables, and high tables with bar seats.
Some students find it cumbersome to continuously have to share a seat if they want a friend to sit with them. No one wants to share a seat with the width of 20 inches. Sophomore Dylan Starker says she “find[s] the limited seats of the new lunch tables exclusive because there is only a certain amount of table space.” She also mentions that “sometimes people have to share seats in order to sit with their friends.” Some of the old tables still remain and are long, with benches. Dylan adds that the old tables were “more ideal” and allowed for bigger groups.
Limited seating and fewer tables lead to the issue of being unable to find a table large enough to seat a group of friends. It has become increasingly common for friend groups to have to split up and eat at different locations. Sitting in the halls is not permitted and when people are unable to even find a table in either bobcat hall or the cafeteria, an issue presents itself. When asked about limited seating, Dylan remarks, “some of the people at the table would have to get up to find another table altogether, which is an inconvenience, especially if there are no more free tables.”
Others enjoy the new tables and feel the long tables became crowded. Some say that the new tables allow for more intimate conversation and because of the round shape, more people can have a conversation.
Though some may not see the change in tables as a significant issue, for others it is. Despite the effort to eliminate exclusion in the high school, could these tables be bringing us back to middle school? Is the “You can’t sit with us” spirit still lingering?