Last Monday, Director of Undergraduate Student Housing Katie Callow-Wright sent an e-mail to the student body regarding the latest developments of the Global Dining Initiative (GDI). Specifically, she informed students that next year’s meal plan details would not be available in time for the in-house lottery the next day. The GDI, a holistic analysis of campus dining designed to ensure student satisfaction and a more cost-effective student meal plan, has throughout the year surveyed students for input on their dining needs. For the initiative to fall through on providing timely financial information goes against its very purpose.
A large segment of the undergraduate population, including a majority of first- and second-years, resides in dormitories on- and off- campus. When students participated in their respective house lotteries, they essentially locked themselves into a future meal plan that doesn’t yet exist. Callow-Wright apologized for this inconvenience, but her e-mail failed to grasp the magnitude of this oversight: For a student in housing, the dining plan is one of the most significant expenses of attending the U of C. A perpetual source of controversy, the cost of a student meal plan is often one of the main reasons students leave housing in the first place. Unfortunately, the lack of timeliness in providing students with financial information does nothing to remake campus dining’s image in the way the GDI intends.
Apart from placing unnecessary stress on students whose fiscal situations require planning, the lack of financial information simply does not allow undergraduates to make careful decisions about their housing status. The one option for students not in housing— finding an apartment— is a process that can take months to come to fruition. The GDI has been ongoing for nine months, during which it has collected responses from almost 5,000 members of the community; for all this effort, it has not produced the most basic information needed to ensure student trust in its sincerity. Leaving undergraduates in the dark about such a cost is both unfair and entirely counterproductive to any attempts to increase the number of students in housing.
By neglecting to give students necessary financial information about their housing, the University and the GDI have placed student needs on the backburner.
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