According to the Campus Dining Services office, “Participating in the residential dining program is one of the fundamental cornerstones of community development.” However, even if the strength of the house system rests largely on requiring residents to eat some meals in a dining hall, the University should let upperclassmen choose their desired number of meals past that minimum amount. The administration should ensure that upperclassmen residents of the house system are afforded some level of choice in their meal-plan selection rather than forcing them to purchase the most expensive, “Unlimited” plan.
Maintaining community feeling in the house system does not require residents to buy an unlimited number of meals. Many students on the unlimited meal plan skip breakfast and eat dinner well after 8 p.m., when campus dining halls close. It is unreasonable to charge students for such services that they will not likely benefit from. Moreover, the University impeaches its own goal by limiting the number of guest swipes each quarter to five in conjunction with the new unlimited plan. If it were legitimately concerned with fostering increased social contact among students, the University ought to return to finite meal plans and accordingly remove the unreasonable cap on guest swipes. While returning to the old plan may not help Aramark’s bottom line, it would provide greater value to students while continuing to build a sense of community.
Decisions relating to students’ eating should be left to students and their parents, and the university should hesitate to intervene, especially in the case of upperclassmen residents who know from experience what level of meal-plan they require. Some students find that the dining halls’ convenience, quality of food, or opportunities for socialization merit purchasing the most expensive meal plan. Others would cook in the dorm kitchen or order from Jimmy John’s. Beyond mere personal preferences, some students’ medical conditions severely limit their choices at the dining halls. The current system prevents those students from purchasing a plan that better fits the amount of food they actually eat.
In light of students’ varied preferences—and their parents’ finances—the University should give them much more freedom when choosing meal plans. To ensure students continue to eat some meals with their fellow residents, the University might require residents purchase a minimum number of meals—perhaps six per week. And, in the unlikely case that students’ demand for dining-hall meals decreases to a point where the current system no longer proves sustainable, the administration should look for cost-cutting measures before simply passing the expense onto students. With the cost of a college education on the rise, student residents should not be universally required to pay for a Cadillac meal plan.
— The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Editor-in-Chief elect, Viewpoints Editors, and three Editorial Board members.