Flex and flexibility

The new Flex Dollars policy eats away at a benefit to student life.

By Maroon Editorial Board

While most students are aware of the new meal plan, few probably realize the Flex Dollar policy changed, as well. Previously, all students received 10-percent discounts for every Flex purchase from Hutchinson Commons and the C-Shop, and a 5-percent discount for Bart Mart buys. Starting this year, only students with meal plans receive this benefit, though all students can get bonuses when they purchase a certain amount of Flex Dollars. Unfortunately, the new policy amounts to the elimination of a small but very real benefit to student life.

The bonus is a far cry from the previous discounts. In the first place, the threshold for eligibility is too high. Only those who wish to add $375 or above to their cards receive the bonuses, which start at 25 extra Flex Dollars and increase with purchases of over $500. While some students without meal plans do put this much money on their cards, one of the attractions of the Flex Dollar concept is that students don’t have to buy them in big increments. The discounts of past years applied regardless of how much students spent.

The new policy has been poorly publicized. There are no signs posted to indicate the changes at Hutch, the C-Shop, or Bart Mart. When asked about the policy, employees at these locations gave conflicting answers. While the Housing and Dining Services Web site is up to date—except for its FAQ section, which has incorrect information—the Campus Dining Services site, where students can go to buy Flex Dollars, doesn’t mention that students without meal plans receive no discount.

Richard Mason, the Director of Operations and Communications at Campus Dining Services, explained that the old benefits were cut because they failed to make students buy more Flex Dollars. In the planning of the new unlimited meal plan, he said, it was decided that the discounts should be retained for student with meal plans, because these students guarantee the most income for dining services.

It makes sense to reward students with meal plans, but it makes equally good sense to give benefits to those who purchase Flex Dollars outside the plan, thus providing dining facilities with additional revenue and business. The new system, however, minimizes those benefits, and confounds this problem by failing to clarify what information on the new policies is accurate.

The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Viewpoints Editors, and two additional Editorial Board members.