After beginning the semester with new dining plans, locations and hours of operation, Dining Services and ARAMARK responded to criticism from students and administrators by lowering the door price for Douglass Dining Hall and further publicizing changes to dining.
“I think there’s an issue about communication,” Senior Purchasing Manager for Auxiliary Operations Jack Noon said. “I know that ARAMARK will be working on it.”
Director of ARAMARK Brad Bingaman believes that students will use their meal plans more frequently as they learn more about the dining system.
“I think its part of the education process,” Bingaman said of teaching students about the meal plans. “I think when they come back in the second semester, they’ll [know where and when to use them].”
The most expensive plan at $1,974 per semester, consisting of 238 Club Meals and a $276 declining balance, is the only dining option available for freshmen.
With only four weeks of the semester remaining, students using this plan should have approximately 68 Club Meals left and nearly $80 left in declining.
Since students are restricted to spending only four Club Meals per day, however, any student with over 112 Club Meals will not be able to use all of their Club Meals before the end of the semester.
Freshman Chris Lee, who is left with 110 Club Meals left of his original 238 Club Meal plan, narrowly avoided this problem.
Some, like freshman Natalie Smith, will be unable to spend all of their Club Meals by the end of the semester. Smith has 130 Club Meals left, as well as about $140 in declining balance.
Freshman Chris Tice agrees. “I have about 130 in Club left,” he said. “I’m definitely downgrading to a lower plan because I only use [about] one a day. I’ll save some money that way.”
Bingaman attributes higher numbers of remaining Club Meals to a lack of education about the new meal plans.
“It’s a new system,” Bingaman said. “What I’m hearing is that they just didn’t know [where and when they could use club meals].”
After educating students through advertisements, posters and key chains, Noon has seen an increase in the number of students using Club Meals.
“We are seeing more utilization of Club combos, which indicates that more education has occurred,” Noon said. “I think communication and education is helping us get there.”
Some students with solely declining balance meal plans are evaluating where they are in relation to the average. Even if upperclassmen have more than they think they can spend before the end of the semester, their declining dollars will roll over into next semester. However, declining dollars still do not transfer over to the next academic year.
Members of the Silver Club plan, which gives members a $1,000 declining balance, should have about $285 left now if they plan on spending the total amount by the end of the semester.
Junior Annie Podkaminer has the Silver Club plan, and has about $200 left. “The variety is better, but it’s too expensive,” Podkaminer said. “I only have $200 left because freshmen buy me meals all the time – otherwise they’d be completely gone.”
Sophomore Uyen Tran has the Gold Club plan, which is $1,250 worth of declining dollars. On average, students with this plan should have about $357 left at this point in the semester. Tran has around $400 remaining.
“[Dining is] inconvenient this year,” Tran said. “It’s inconvenient for freshmen because they have to be corralled from one place to another to use their blocks.”
President Thomas Jackson worked with ARAMARK and Dining Services to address students’ dining concerns early in the semester.
“I wasn’t wildly happy about how it started out,” Jackson said. “My sense is a lot of those [changes] have worked quite well.
“Dining is a perennial sore point,” he added. “It’s never going to work perfectly for everyone.”
Additional reporting by Masha Chepovetsky, Cyrus Levesque, and Robyn Tanner. Schnee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.