April 7, 2006

Bon Appétit

Anyone who has taken an economics class here, or even knows an economics major is well aware of the intellectual respect given to free markets. It is just too bad that the University is utterly unwilling to make any aspect of the freshman meal plans operate in a market.

This goes a long way toward explaining the state of the campus dining halls. Anyone who has had a freshman meal plan at B-J or Pierce is well aware of the mediocrity of Aramark. But why would Aramark try to make any improvements when their largest group of patrons pays before ever trying some of B-J’s delicious pizza or Pierce’s exquisite chicken Kiev? It is guaranteed revenue for them, and they have obviously found that using their monopoly status on first-years (and providing dirt cheap slop) is the way to maximize profits.

After years of student grumbling, SG is attempting to change the situation for the first-year students with Barlett plans who think they don’t have the meal points they need. While this proposal’s specifics don’t affect much of the student body, Barlett first-years’ ability to choose the number of points on their meal plan would be a start.

The Maroon wholeheartedly backs this, but why not go further? All first-years ought to be able to choose between differently tiered plans. While the Maroon understands the concern that first-years need guaranteed meals for comfort’s sake, we think the same end could be achieved by mandating an autumn quarter meal plan for first-years, then letting them choose after that. This would give students the opportunity to decide where they feel their money is best spent, and, in turn, it might send a signal to Aramark to improve its service.

Even further, meal points should be universal among campus dining facilities. This would force B-J and Pierce to get their act together, or risk losing their business to Bartlett. SG—while it has pointed us in the right direction—must discuss this more comprehensive approach in order to seriously improve the dining situation for first-years.