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The University of McDonalds

Working fast-food retail teaches Haverford undergrad lessons in humility and privilege

Olivia Legaspi is a Haverford undergraduate who spent some time working the front counter at McDonalds to help pay for her very expensive education. It taught her something about the value of hard work and humility, versus the privilege Haverford inculcates into its students. Excerpts:

During Customs week, in PAF sessions, and in everyday discourse here at Haverford, we are taught to ask for help when we feel we need it, speak up when we feel uncomfortable, and prioritize our own well being over most other things. At McDonald’s, acting in this way could have cost me my job, a job I needed to afford college. There, I, as an individual, was insignificant: The most important thing was that the customer walks away satisfied, and it didn’t matter what I had to go through to make that happen. There is something ironic about this: In order to do what was necessary to be a Haverford student, I had to act in [an] un-Haverford-like way.

Meaning she had to put others first, even when it was hard to do, and when it was unfair. Legaspi had to put up with a lot of crap.

And from that, I grew; I learned to take care of myself in ways that didn’t inconvenience anyone, draw unnecessary attention to myself, or interfere with the structures in place and the work which had to be done. McDonald’s was not a “safe space” for me, and that was how it should be; I was a small part of a big picture, and my feelings had no business influencing said big picture.

Those of us who need to work in order to support ourselves and pay tuition cannot afford to internalize the soft, self-centered mindset presented by our peers and customs folk at Haverford — had I gone to a manager and complained that I become anxious when the restaurant is busy or that hearing complaints from customers made me nervous, the manager would have concluded that this was simply not the right job for me. I would have gone home, and I would have been unable to pay the student contribution from summer work that is built into my financial aid package.


Read the whole thing.  Sounds like the University of McDonalds taught Legaspi a lesson as valuable as anything she’ll learn at Haverford. Wise young woman, that Olivia Legaspi, who concludes: “We must remember that putting oneself first is the essence of privilege, and that, in order to grow, we must leave this selfish mindset behind.”

Via Rusty Reno, who adds:

We should cultivate communities of care that uplift rather than run [down], that encourage rather than discourage. Moreover, it entirely fitting that student life at Haverford isn’t like a McDonald’s workplace. But Legaspi is surely right remind her fellow students to avoid taking such an environment for granted, or worse to think its something they’re entitled to. In most of the affairs of life (including education, finally), it’s not about me—and it shouldn’t be.



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