Last Wednesday I had the pleasure of attending a town hall-style meeting with representatives from various college services, including parking, dining, facilities, the bookstore and security.

However, although the meeting was open to all students, no more than 10 came. Half of them were SA senators, mostly from the projects and services committee. The event began at 8 p.m. and lasted for about an hour, and anyone who came was allowed to ask questions. It was a very relaxed and open forum.

I am only a freshman at UR, and so maybe I am mistaken in my belief that most students are dissatisfied with the food served on-campus.

I thought that many students were angry at how our bookstore charges more than every other in the state. I was also under the foolish impression that students wanted increased, cheaper and closer parking.

I understand that this is a college campus, that we are all busy, that we probably had better things to do and might not even have known about the meeting. However, this is just another example of the extreme apathy of our generation.

At one point during the meeting Dave Ladon, the Speaker of the Students’ Association Senate, questioned both the bookstore, under contract with Barnes and Noble, and dining services, under contract with ARAMARK, about their deals with the school. Ladon was not questioning the terms previously agreed to and even apologized for the many ignorant student remarks that “we’re getting cheated,” without really knowing what the contract says. He simply asked for the contracts to be made public so that students could give feedback to the companies and the university.

No dice. The contracts have a non-disclosure clause. Because both the book-store, as a Barnes and Noble subsidiary, and ARAMARK are private companies, as is UR, the contract can and does contain a non-disclosure clause.

If, as so many people mistakenly assume, UR was a SUNY school, then of course we could see the contract. As one representative said, “most contracts like this start with the non-disclosure clause – at state schools it is negotiated out.” That gives rise to the question, since UR did not negotiate it out, what did we get instead?

You may ask, if that was the end of the discussion, then why this article?

Perhaps only myself and the handful of other people who showed up care, but you and I will never know how much money, if any, the school makes from dining or the bookstore. This is our life – every day for four years most of us will live on campus, eat campus food and buy books from the bookstore.

Yet we will never be able to question the cost. Isn’t that just a little bit ridiculous?

This university is our own little world and it is our responsibility to make it the best that we can. These contracts are only one example of the ways that we let others take total control of our lives and resign ourselves to bitterness. As freshmen this year, students were forced into a meal plan costing at least $2,000 per semester. That is quite a bit of money that only one person wanted to question.

College is about growing up and maturing. We must hold ourselves accountable for our situation. We must question why. Becoming an adult is more than drinking alcohol and getting completely smashed at the Fraternity Quad every weekend. When something like the ridiculous food and high prices bothers us no one else is going to question the school on our behalf. No one else will fight to make it better. Mommy and Daddy aren’t here – it’s time we start acting like adults.

In the famous words of Dean Green, “Our education is our own,” but more than that our lives here are our own. Hopefully the next time representatives from parking, dining, facilities, the bookstore and security generously volunteer their time, we will make the most of their offer and give vital, worthwhile feedback.

Kirstein can be reached athkirstein@campustimes.org.



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