The River Campus has a large number of dining options for its size, but when you spend months on end frequenting the same spots a few times every day, they get old quickly. This is why the newly proposed plan to make it possible for Flex to be accepted at locations off-campus has a lot of potential.

To begin with, it would not cost UR any money, because businesses supporting the program would rent out the Flex machines from the university. Parents also know that the Flex they give their children can be doled out at their discretion, so they know that their children are not going out and spending all their money on a new pair of Prada shoes or a 30-rack.

However, the obvious flaw with the plan is that using Flex dollars is the same as using a debit card. Flex funds are used for discretionary purchases on campus and a minimum balance is not required as part of the meal plan. When students venture off campus, it is no more convenient or practical for them to pull out their UR ID and ask for “Flex” than it is for them to pull out a MasterCard and ask for “debit.”

If anything, it is less convenient because cash or debit funds need to be put into a Flex account in order to have that money available, and could even encourage irresponsible spending because Flex does not feel like “real money.” If students could, however, use Declining Dollars for off-campus meals, Douglass, Danforth and The Pit would be pretty quiet since students are required to purchase excessive amounts of Declining Dollars as part of their meal plans, and would jump at the opportunity to spend the extra on different food.

It is understandable that simply allowing off-campus eateries to accept Declining Dollars is not currently feasible, but the Flex proposal does not offer any more of an incentive than what already exists. This program is a start – but is it the best we can do? Far from it.

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