The UR Undergraduate Admissions Web site states the following: “The dining options on campus truly fit the college lifestyle… the U of R has lots of options to suit your needs.” Though student discontent has helped persuade Dining Services to change meal plan options for next year to make them fit better with the “college lifestyle,” the new plan caters even less to student needs than the current one.

The goal of the new system is to assign minimum meal plan requirements to students based on residence rather than class year in hopes that those students most likely to use a larger plan will be the ones required to have it.

In theory, this plan sounds great. Unfortunately, the details of the plan are too restricting. While the new system will free Southside Living Center and certain Hill Court residents from paying for Clubs they don’t want, it will also restrict upperclassmen who, regardless of where they live, will not use the large plans that Dining intends to force upon them.

Dining Services claims that it does its best to meet the needs of students, hence the change in plan options for next year, yet I can’t help but find that hard to believe. As a sophomore, the smallest meal plan I could get this year was the 170 Club Plan. Because I live in Southside, however, I used less than half of my Clubs last semester.

I appealed my meal plan for this semester and included with my appeal form a long letter explaining why I wanted the Silver Declining Plan – from the waste of unused Clubs last semester, to the fact that, of all of the on-campus dining, the locations I frequent most only accept Declining. I also stated how I have a full-size kitchen and prefer to shop at Wegmans for the majority of my food, but I cannot afford to shop there when I am wasting money on an unnecessary meal plan. If I am forced to spend so much money on meals what’s the point of even having a kitchen?

Knowing Dining’s plans to change available options, I thought my appeal could never be turned down. I was wrong. I received an e-mail the next week that said, “Currently meal plan levels are assigned by class year, not residence hall. In recognition of your spending habits last semester, we can lower your meal plan requirement to the 140 Club Meal Plan for the spring 2008 semester.”

Fantastic. Rather than explaining why my request for an all-Declining plan could not be honored, Dining just restated why I was appealing my plan to begin with. I find it hard to believe that the 140 Club Meal Plan is an appropriate response to my “spending habits last semester.” A Club Meal costs approximately $8. That means that if I used only half of my Clubs last semester, I wasted somewhere around $700. The meal plan reduction that Dining gave me saved me $165 – less than 25 percent of what I wasted last semester.

True, the new plan for next year will no longer require Southside residents to have Club Meals, but the issue is still not solved. Dining is simply taking the Club requirement away from Southside students and burdening other students with it instead.

Forcing students to waste so much money on food they will never eat is not right. And the Admissions Web site claims that “dining options on campus truly fit the college lifestyle”? That’s pretty misleading. Even if I live in Southside next year and get the all-Declining meal plan I want, some senior living on the Residential Quad will not be so lucky. I suggest Dining Services takes a second look at its dining system and realizes it needs to stop preying on us college students, the majority of whom can’t afford to spend hundreds of dollars on absolutely nothing.

Lombardo is a member of the class of 2010.

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