Director of Residential Life Laurel Contomanolis and Director of Dining and Auxiliary Services Cam Schauf joined together at Wednesday’s Town Hall Meeting to announce major dining and residential changes for next year.

They partnered to reveal that meal plans will now be based on residential location rather than by class year. The Riverview Apartments will be part of the fall housing lottery, and Residential Life plans to be able to comfortably accommodate housing needs.

The combined effort was to make sure that the programs presented made sense together.

The meeting, which usually takes place in Wilson Commons, was moved to Hoyt Auditorium to accommodate more people.

Contomanolis began by talking about a University-commissioned committee designed to improve upperclassman housing.

The committee recommended that Residential Life continue the Riverview project and work to improve transportation to and from Southside Living Center. They reviewed housing provisions by class year and suggested a system that more centrally base sophomores and encouraged juniors and seniors to make independent living choices. The Park Lot and 19th Ward shuttles were added and continue to be modified in order to serve the students who live in Southside and students who will live in Riverview next year.

“The maisonettes have generated positive feedback from the seniors living there and will continue to be offered next year,” Contomanolis said. “We are also working hard to gather information about the approximately 600 undergraduates who live off campus to accommodate their needs.”

Residential Life’s major project has been the construction and presentation of the Riverview complex across the river. The Riverview complex consists of five buildings that can house up to 400 people. Approximately 250 of these people will be undergraduates. Take Five students and KEY Scholars will be permitted to reenter the housing lottery for this year, but their eligibility will be re-evaluated each year.

Riverview Apartments will be comprised of two and four-bedroom apartments. Each will have its own bathroom. The apartments will be carpeted and fully furnished, and they will have kitchens equipped with a dishwasher and microwave in addition to the stove and refrigerator. Parking for 300 vehicles will be available, but these costs will not be included in the approximate $500 increase for housing costs at Riverview. For those without a car, the 19th Ward shuttle or other transportation possibilities are being addressed.

Contomanolis then discussed the additional security concerns associated with the Riverview housing.

“We are working to create a safe environment there, but we encourage students to use their urban sensibility,” Contomanolis said. “There is a perception out there that going across the river is dangerous and prohibited. We are hoping to change that.”

The apartments will be closely monitored by security cameras, and there will be additional lighting in parking lots and blue lights on the bridge, as well as along the river. Two security officers will be on site between Brooks Landing and the Riverview buildings.

Contomanolis also mentioned that students living in Riverview should be open to interaction with local residents.

“We [the University] want to be warm, welcoming and able to engage the community and be a positive contributor,” Contomanolis said.

The major change in meal plan selection is that the options for meal plans will no longer be based on class year but based on where one lives. Schauf explained that the changes in meal plans were discussed as a result of student complaints asking for fewer Club Meals and more Declining Dollars. Southside residents felt that they should be treated differently because of their increased distance from campus dining facilities. Also, freshman meal plans are considered by many to be too high.

The changes in dining will package choices so that people can decide not only where they want to live but also the level of flexibility they want to have in their meal plans. All levels of meal plans have been changed with the exception of fraternity meal plans. Schauf stressed that Dining Services is not changing meal plans in order to renovate facilities. Meal plans remain a break-even operation.

The residential halls were split up into four groups based on the number of kitchen and cooking facilities available.

“This new system makes sense. If I could wipe the slate clean and introduce meal plans to this campus, this is how I would do it. This is easy to explain to any incoming freshman,” Schauf said.

The idea is that the Group 1 residential halls either have a kitchen on the floor or no kitchen at all. This includes Susan B. Anthony Halls, Residential Quad buildings and the buildings in Hill Court without kitchens (i.e. Fairchild House, Kendrick House, Munro House and Slater House).

Group 2 halls are Anderson and Wilder Towers, which have slightly more kitchen access. Group 3 halls have a suite kitchen that six people share (Chambers House and Gale House), and Group 4 halls have full kitchens that are shared by two or three other people (i.e. all of Southside, Riverview, Community Learning Center and Drama House). Minimum meal plan requirements were set accordingly.

Meal plans reflect a decrease in the number of Club Meals. The highest plan currently has 280 Club Meals but will be reduced to 200 with a marked increase in the amount of Declining Dollars.

In the Residential Quad, Sue B., Kendrick, Fairchild, Munro and Slater, students can have 200 clubs and $700 Declining or 150 Clubs and $825 Declining. Students in Towers can choose any of the Group 1 plans or 100 clubs and $800 Declining. Students in Chambers and Gale can have any of the others or the Platinum Declining Plan, which is $1,655 Declining. Southside, Riverview, CLC and Drama House students can have any of the others or the Gold Declining Plan, which is $1,380 Declining, or the Silver Declining Plan, which is $800 Declining. Commuters can have any of the others or $555 Declining, $450 Declining or 25 Clubs and $320 Declining.

After their joint presentation, Contomanolis and Schauf opened the floor up to questions. Students responded with some appreciation for the increases in Declining but skepticism on whether the new plans would discourage inappropriate cooking. Students brought up concerns about food quality.

“Students should expect significant changes,” Schauf said. He also said that Dining Services will continue to look into using Declining Dollars in vending machines.

Upperclassmen expressed some discontent about the loss of the Platinum Declining Plans currently available to juniors. Schauf and Contomanolis stressed that the lack of adequate cooking facilities contributed to the decisions to increase meal plan requirements in certain Hill Court buildings.

“[The buildings in Hill Court] present a major problem because there are too many ad hoc kitchens that have caused major concerns with the Fire Marshall that need to be addressed. Kitchens in these locations are not feasible,” Contomanolis said.

Students were also curious about the lottery system for the Riverview Apartments. “Selection of Riverview apartments will either be a separate lottery or an early assignment process like we use for Southside. I haven’t finalized that yet,” Contomanolis said.

Sahay is a member of the class of 2010.

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