Housing implements harsher policy to decrease sharing of meal cards

By Hassan S. Ali

The Office of Undergraduate Student Housing has implemented a stricter policy to cut down on unauthorized sharing and abuse of first-year student meal cards.

The new set of rules comes in response to complaints of fraudulent card use, over-swiping at meals, and stolen Flex dollars from lost or stolen University cards.

Upperclassmen who often find a free meal from the generously large dining plans of first-years are now met with a stern warning, reminding all students that the new policy is serious business. In front of the Pierce dining area, a sign reads: “Do not let other students or friends use your card. If someone other than you uses your card, you will be subject to the disciplinary actions set by the school.” If presented with an invalid meal card, Dining Service employees are instructed to confiscate the card and report the incident to the Housing Office.

“The policy is not new, but the rules are,” said Velma Johnson, Food Services Location Manager of Pierce Dining Hall. In the past, students were able to use their cards multiple times, whereas the new policy sets a limit of five swipes per meal. In addition, the card owner must now be physically present when swiping other people into their respective dining halls.

“It seems really inconvenient,” said Lana Harfoush, a second-year in the College.

“Nobody will want to get up from their dinner and swipe other people in,” added Dan Johnson, also a second-year. “It’s just really annoying.”

He noted that the new policy should not be much of a surprise for students. “Rules were there before,” she said. “There were rules and there was a policy before, but students bent the rules.”

Dining Services employees were briefed about enforcing the new set of rules, as part of their yearly training session. “They [administrators] were very strict, saying that there were no exceptions to any of the rules,” said Velma Johnson.

Over the summer, the dining staff was instructed on how the new system would be implemented, and was given tips about how to deal with issues and complaints from frustrated students. “Students can go to their resident head or the housing office if they have an issue with anything,” Johnson said. “But still, we haven’t had any issues or problems so far.”

Despite the measures being taken, there are still signs of adjusting to the new rules and regulations. At Bartlett Dining Hall, a group of first-years noted that card-checking was not consistently stringent for every meal period.

University administrators pushed for the new rules after several reported incidents of lost or stolen cards, which were subsequently abused to obtain dining points and Flex dollars.

“We’re not here to police anybody,” Johnson said, referring to those students who might still try to skirt around the new rules. “Everybody should be aware of the new system, and that it’s supposed to protect you [students],” Johnson added. “So it’s actually a good thing. I don’t think people see that.”