There’s an issue in this school that has been bothering me since I entered two years ago, one that is almost never addressed by anyone, and always rendered invisible. I do not wish to sound ungrateful but, at the risk of being ridiculed by my peers, I’m going to try to address an unseen consequence of economic privilege: affording food on campus.
I, like 40 percent of students, am on financial aid, and I am currently receiving federal work-study allocations for this school year. Like many of my fellow student workers, I am able to work a maximum of 10 hours per week to receive this allotment of, in my particular instance, $2,400 per year.
Unfortunately, because I am a fulltime student, I am only able to work within a confined number of hours each week, usually during meal times or at late hours of the night.
I am only able to utilize my meals on certain days of the week, oftentimes sporadically and never using the maximum number of meals I have already paid for by signing up for the compulsory meal plan drafted by the University. Because there is no way to effectively budget my points (I spend upwards of 10 to 15 points per day on food at Weshop/Pi Café), I have purchased over $500 in additional points so that I may enjoy the means of sustenance and be able to go about my daily life without the fear of being turned away at Usdan or any other dining service due to insufficient funds.
But why I should I have to take out additional loans to pay for food that I should have already been provided with?
This would not happen if Bon Appétit offered alternatives to the meal plan for anyone who could give a substantial reason for why the plan did not meet their needs. Sadly, the only instance the University allows for such a provision is when the student is faced with a medical condition or a particular dietary need that prevents them from safely and adequately partaking in the meal plans that the school offers.
By allowing low and middle-income students to attend this school, you must understand that it is not possible or sustainable to continue to purchase additional points at such an infinite rate using finite monetary means. As my loans hastily approach $15,000 and my single mother continues to take out loans of over $12,000 every year for me to be able to attend this institution, I constantly re-evaluate the reasons why I continue to attend the University, even as my food choices dwindle down to cereal at every meal in order save enough money to meet University payment deadlines. Many other students are also faced with a similar predicament, and they are often in worse situations than I am presently in.
It is my sincere hope that the University’s burgeoning goal to increase the accessibility of higher-education to disadvantaged students does not only affect the incoming class of 2012, but that you would not forget the lives of the students you are enriching that already attend this university. No one should have to choose between a better life for themselves and unnecessary debt because they go here.
Surveys have shown that, on average, people have been spending fewer points now than they did five years ago. However, these studies fail to account for the frequency at which points are used in dining areas and if people feel that their dietary needs are being met through the spending that they make on campus. An observation I have made is that most student workers do not use meals, but points in order to meet their dietary needs, which leads to more spending and purchasing of points by using limited resources, creating a vicious, never-ending cycle.
I am pleading with the administration to end this bias against work-study and lower-income students. Officially, work-study is optional, but when I use the money I earn at school to pay for bills so that I can go back to a home over the summer, it is not. Just alleviating the stress I feel regarding meals is enough to affirm my choice in coming to Wesleyan.
I apologize if I sound overly dramatic, but this is an issue that is very important to me and I feel must be addressed. Allow for us to appeal choosing the University meal plan due to other extenuating circumstances. Our dietary needs are just as salient and pressing as anyone else’s.