November 21, 2008

Housing office proposes all-you-can-eat dining plan

[img id="77042" align="alignleft"] University Housing and Dining Services will offer unlimited all-you-can-eat meals to all undergraduates living in housing next year under the new dining plan they unveiled to the Inter-House Council (IHC) last week. The plan will provide students with unlimited entry into the dining hall without per-quarter meal quotas, according to a message released to IHC representatives. Bartlett, Burton-Judson, and Pierce will be open continuously from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

According to Cheryl Gutman, deputy dean of students, who spoke at a town hall meeting to discuss the change on Thursday night, the new plan was inspired by student feedback from a housing study completed last year.

Housing and Dining presented three possible scenarios for the new plan, which will range in cost from $4,170 to $4,700 and will be selected this year based on student feedback.

The first scenario would require all students to take the unlimited plan. The second option would allow current second- and third-years to opt into a current moderate or minimum plan for one year before being required to buy the new plan, while current first-years and incoming first-years will have no option. The final plan would be identical to the second, though it would include five take-out meals per quarter.

“There was a lot of dissatisfaction with a number of things having to do with inequality and a lack of clarity between classes, between plans, [and] between operations of the facilities,” Gutman said.

The new plan aims to improve price equity between first-year students, who currently are required to pay $5,109 for their meal plan, and upperclassmen, who are allowed to select cheaper plans that provide less food, according to Richard Mason, Housing and Dining Services director of communications. The plan was created in consultation with a steering committee of IHC and Student Government representatives.

“We know that the meal plans are currently confusing to students–students don’t feel they are equitable or even logical,” Mason said. “We tried to refine our plan into some scenarios of different kinds.”

The disparity between the price of a freshman meal plan and the minimum and moderate plans available to upperclassmen “creates a great deal of resentment among first-year students that really affects retention right now,” he said.

At the meeting, first-years expressed concerns that they will be excluded from the option of choosing a less expensive plan next year, a traditional move for upperclassmen. Minimum plans cost $2,403—over $2,000 less than some of the proposed plans.

According to Hitchcock House IHC representative and third-year Jordan Phillips, their exclusion is due to two factors.

“It would push the entire plan back a year because it would raise the price for incoming first-years to what it is now for first-years,” he said. Additionally, he added, the new plan would be cheaper than their current plan.

Second-year Marlena Slowik said that the announcement of the plans made her reconsider her housing plans. “If they make me pay $4,000 dollars, I will move out [of the dorms],” said Slowik, a self-described avid cook.

Mason said that other students might share that sentiment.

“It is a concern that raising the price may cause people to move out. But we really have a system that doesn’t work out right now,” Mason said.

The policy will be chosen before students sign their housing contracts in the spring, though Housing hopes to have a final decision in the next few weeks.