Two weeks ago, Dining Services announced much-anticipated upgrades to student meal plans. They are scheduled to be in place for the 2015-16 academic year and will be the first changes to take place in 13 years.
While meal plans may not be the most pressing issue for our campus at the present moment, the announcement answers many questions that concerned students like myself have been asking since last semester. We all knew changes were due, but there was definitely some uncertainty as to whether they would foster flexibility or restrictions.
Under the new changes announced through an email earlier this month, residential meal plans will now include 50 additional Jay Bucks. Students will also have the option of purchasing additional Jay Bucks at a discounted rate. This is to accommodate the variety of “tastes and schedules” of Elizabethtown College students.
Now that my junior year is coming to a close, I have had ample time to experience different meal plans and evaluate what works best for me. I find that my schedule generally doesn’t coincide well with typical meal times or at least not consistently throughout the week. Many of my friends and classmates have the same dilemma and we end up eating at the Jay’s Nest frequently. So this year, I decided to switch to the plan with the least meals and yet, here I am at the second-to-last week of the semester with 65 meals and only $2.59 remaining in Jay Bucks.
Now, let me clarify, I am not the type to splurge at the Jay’s Nest. I eat there when necessary, which usually amounts to a handful of meals a week. I will also stop between classes to grab a snack if I had to skip breakfast or if I need a caffeine boost before a late night at the library. So far, this system has worked out pretty well. However, having a few extra Jay Bucks would be a huge help during times like these when I’m scrambling to find time to go to the Marketplace.
I am fairly disciplined with rationing my Jay Bucks and not charging additional purchases to my bill (you’re welcome, Mom and Dad), but I know of several people who aren’t so strict in this area. I can’t blame them.
The Jay’s Nest and Blue Bean are sometimes just a little too convenient for the college lifestyle. And so, for these people, the option to buy more Jay Bucks at a discount will allow more flexibility and likely save parents a lot of money.
I welcome the upgrades to Jay Bucks with open arms, so overall I am very happy with the announcement. However, there is one change which was not addressed in the email that I do not agree with, nor do I think aligns with the movement towards flexibility. Last semester, rumors circulated about new restrictions on “guest meals.” Under this policy, students would only be able to “swipe in” a very limited number of times for friends and family members who did not have meal plans. This generated significant concern among the student body and even led to a petition with 316 signatures.
According to the Dining Services website, students will be allotted four to 10 “guest meals” depending on their meal plan. Once these swipes are used, guests will have to pay for themselves. The current guest pricing as stated online is $7.25 for breakfast, $11.50 for lunch and $13.95 for dinner. There was no mention of this in the email sent by Campus News.
I personally find this policy unfair, especially considering all the meal swipes which go to waste. Many of us find ourselves with dozens of extra meals at the end of the semester with no way to exchange them. Our visiting friends and family will still have to spend up to $14 per meal if we’ve run out of guest swipes. How is this fair when we’re spending thousands of dollars per year on compulsory meal plans?
Dining Services does a lot right in terms of accommodating students’ needs and preferences. The changes to Jay Bucks reflect this and definitely mark a step in the right direction. However, there are other issues which are matters of principle and should take precedence over simply upgrading individual meal plans. Etown students deserve to be heard and to have their concerns actively addressed and not swept under the rug.