Spring break brought something rather startling to my attention. We freshmen are required to get a block based meal plan from dining services. Blocks that aren’t spent simply disappear.

Somehow, somewhere in our minds, we accept that it’s okay for our money to just disappear. Over break, we still get blocks. Which means that our money, with a short enough life span as it is, may be literally impossible for us to spend.

Let’s assume you have a 14- block plan. You get the full 14 blocks the Thursday before spring break starts. If you leave on Saturday, with the four-block-per day spending limit, the best you can do is unload eight of the 14 before you leave. That $36 disappears. Let’s say you come back on Sunday, you have a full slate of blocks, but only three days to spend them. That means that you lose at least two blocks ? $12.

This same situation occurs during Thanksgiving break, reading period, after finals and if you leave early for winter break. In fact, any time you leave campus or choose to eat off campus, you end up paying for it twice.

And what happens if I want to order Chinese food delivered to my dorm? If for some reason ? though Dining Services might consider this impossible ? I want to spend my money somewhere other than a dining centers on campus, it means that I have to lose the money I already gave the university.

Where else in life do we accept and expect our money to just disappear? It isn’t fair for our (or our parents’) money to become inaccessible to us merely because we can’t spend it fast enough.

It’s one thing to take money up front, for some express purpose like an administrative fee or something along those lines. But this system deprives us of money that we should be able to spend any way we want.

I think that, rather than disappearing into someone else’s pockets, any of my unspent blocks should be converted into declining, Flex, a refund or anything other than “my loss.”

If I put my money in a bank, and the bank said, “You have to withdraw at least $84 a week, but no more than $24 a day. All money you fail to spend, you lose,” I’d take my money to another bank.

Dining Services, though, has a captive audience. I can’t elect to not get a meal plan. In fact, I get two choices, all of which involve disappearing cash. Instead of just taking my money like highway robbers, Dining Services could offer a declining exchange wherein each unspent block is converted to three or four dollars declining. This would mean that ? if I were off campus ? rather than just losing all of my money, I would at least get some of it back.

The current system is not serving my ? and most freshmen’s ? dining needs. This needs to change.

Powell can be reached at lpowell@campustimes.org.

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