Admin. Propose Meal-Point Increase

The Department of Housing, Dining and Hospitality will vote on a proposal this week to increase mandatory dining dollars by $100 next year, despite evidence that most students living in the residence halls will be left with excess by the end of Spring Quarter.

Students living in the residence halls currently pay $2,795 a year in dining dollars, while students in the apartments pay $2,145. According to the 2009-10 recommended budget — published in each dining hall by Housing, Dining and Hospitality services — by March 4, students in residence halls should have $1,077 remaining and those in the apartments should have $824 left.

Instead, 74.1 percent of students living in the residence halls — who have $82 per week to spend — are above the targeted amount of meal points, while only 10.5 percent are below target. Twenty-three percent of students living in the apartments — who have $63 to spend per week — are above target, 37 percent are below.

According to A.S. Representative for the On-Campus Housing Dining and Hospitality Committee Wafa Ben Hassine, members of the advisory committee have offered several explanations for students being behind in their spending.

“A lot of [committee members] are arguing for it because of one reason or another, like ‘Oh, well, people in the res halls don’t spend as much as they should because they don’t know how to spend their money,’ or ‘They don’t know how to go about with a dining plan,’” Ben Hassine said.

A 12-person committee, comprised mostly of students, will vote on the proposal this Friday. Student representatives from each of the six colleges will join A.S. representatives — including Ben Hassine — and the Inter-Collegiate Resident’s Association. The committee also includes Director of Housing, Dining and Hospitality Mark Cunningham and Director of Financial Aid Ann Klein.

According to Ben Hassine, Cunningham said additional revenue from an increase in dining dollars is necessary due to union-mandated wage increases and the rising cost of things like food and utilities. Also, environmentally conscious choices — like cage-free eggs and fair trade coffee — rack up additional costs.

“They need to fill a certain gap, because next year — you know how everything constantly increases, like the food, the raw food, utilities, electricity, water, everything — we need to fill in that gap somehow, and we can’t cut services, ‘cause those are our workers, custodians and such,” Michael Lam, the ICRA Representative for the Committee, said. “But nobody wants [to close down OVT for a year], and everybody wants to keep our services. So the only way anyone could think of to cover that gap was to increase the dining dollars, to have people pay more.”

Lam also cited concern for lower-income students as his reason for supporting the increase.

“I don’t want to cut dining halls because there are a lot of student workers, and they depend on those,” Lam said. “The Director of Financial Aid Ann Klein said that financial aid would be able to cover [the $100] increase, but that’s only for financial aid students. So that’s why everyone is saying that we need this increase, there is no other way to fill the gap.”

Since the 2007-08 school year, dining dollars for students in the residence halls has increased from $1,800 to $2,795 in 2010-11.

Marshall College senior Derek Lao said that having fewer meal points as a freshman helped him learn to pace himself when it came to spending money.

“Freshman year I ran out, I had to reload about $200,” Lao said. “[Mandatory meal points are] kind of forcing freshmen to spend their money, instead of teaching them how to budget their own money and be responsible. You have to realize that you can’t always get Ben & Jerry’s for every meal.”

Muir College freshman Yonatan Rotman said he has too many meal points and is worried about having leftover dining dollars at the end of the year.

“Personally, I have more dining dollars than I need,” Rotman said. “I don’t think more are necessary. If someone were to run out, they can buy more themselves, so there’s no reason to force all students to buy $100 more.”

Cunningham could not be reached for comment.

Readers can contact Hayley Bisceglia-Martin at [email protected].

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