The traditional definition of a tray is a flat-rimmed sheet used for carrying food, drink and eating utensils. But at Whitworth the Saga tray – named after Whitworth’s longtime dining service – was that and so much more. The orange tray (and later the blue tray) was the culprit in the embarrassing but inevitable event hundreds of students experienced in the dining hall at some point in their college career: the ceremonial dropping of the tray and spilling of one’s entire meal on the dining hall floor. The clatter and mess were always met with a round of applause from fellow students, marking a rite of passage.
Trays would also disappear from the dining hall through students’ covert maneuverings. In wintertime, students careened down the Back 40’s slick, snowy hills seated atop Saga trays. Another popular winter use of the tray was called hookie-bobbing, in which a student, standing on a tray, was towed behind a car by holding onto a rope or the car’s bumper.
In 2009, Sodexo eliminated trays in an effort to cut down on food waste. Some alumni still have an old Saga tray packed away in their college souvenirs. One tradition lives on, though: students still find it quite tricky to make it through their Whitworth experience without dropping a meal in the dining hall.