Recent changes to University meal plans have left many students with less money to spend on food, calculations of daily allotments reveal. Some students on financial aid, in particular, have encountered considerable difficulties in adjusting their budgets to the new “block plan” setup.
Whereas in previous years the University offered student a given number of meals per week, the new setup instead offers a set number of meals per semester. Juniors are still given the option of forfeiting all of their meals for points, while seniors are still given the all-points plan by default.
Under the new rules, sophomores who do not choose a meal plan before the beginning of the year are automatically placed on the 105 Block meal plan, which provides students with 105 meals and 675 points a semester. When spread out over 94 days of school, this total comes out to 1.1 meals and 7.1 points per day—or, in practical terms, enough to purchase two value meals at Summerfields.
Carmen Melillo ’09, who receives financial aid, criticized the plan as neglectful.
“At a University like Wesleyan, where you’re either paying a considerable amount of money or receiving generous amounts of financial aid to receive a top-level liberal arts education, one would think that one’s basic needs—in this particular instance, dining—would be as much of a concern for the University as maintaining a knowledgeable and engaging faculty, a rigorous and dynamic academic curriculum and a diverse student body,” he said.
He then went on to question the University’s chief concerns.
“With news of the changes in the dining program, particularly how difficult it is for underclassmen to get enough to eat in the face of high prices and a new dining facility that has cost millions of dollars, one has to wonder exactly where this University’s priorities lie,” he said.
The high prices he referred to are the sticker prices at Weshop, where many students have felt the tug of high food expenses on their wallets. A comparison with the Consumer Price Index reveals that staples such as butter, sugar and processed American cheese cost twice as much as they would in an average American grocery store. Weshop Employee Sharon Wade said the high prices were due to basic economic constraints.
“ Big grocery stores get a huge discount because they buy things in bulk,” she said. “We only buy a few items at a time, so we need to charge more to compensate.”
Finance and Facilities Chair for the WSA Jen Liebschutz ’11, who worked with the University on the new meal plan, discussed the motives behind the changes.
“They told us [members of the WSA] that a block meal plan was better for students on financial aid,” she said.
She then went on to criticize the plan as hurtful to disadvantaged students.
“It makes it harder for students whose parents can’t buy them more points,” she said. “That’s why we’re lobbying to get freshman and sophomores more points for next year.”
According to Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students Rick Culliton, the University enacted the changes in response to student concerns. He cited the change from a-la-carte to all-you-care-to-eat dining at Usdan as part of a general restructuring of the meal system, adding that the construction of the new campus center called for a change in policy.
“During the spring semester, when it was clear that students were much more satisfied with the dining program and the changes that were made, Bon Appétit developed the plans for the 2008-09 school year,” he wrote in an e-mail. “This resulted in a restructuring of the meal/point mix to better reflect the program being offered.”
As for the reduction in the number of meals and points offered, Culliton said the new plan was sufficient to meet students’ needs.
“Although there are 19 possible meals a student could take in any given week, most students choose to eat dinner seven nights a week, Saturday and Sunday brunch and lunch 5 days a week (a total of 14 meals per week),” he wrote. “Survey data and cash register transactions indicate that students don’t eat breakfast in large numbers on campus. The feedback from students over the years has been that they have not been interested in a more expensive 19 meal per week plan and in fact have asked for plans with fewer meals and points and less buy-in.”