The Students’ Association held a meal plans open forum on Monday Feb. 6, led by Director of Campus Dining Services and Auxiliary Operations Cam Schauf, to provide an outlet for students to express their concerns and ask questions about the new meal plans.
Among the questions that were addressed at the forum, the one that seemed to generate the most discussion was a query voiced about whether or not it is possible for the meal plans to be adjusted for the 2012-13 academic year and, subsequently, how they could be changed.
Contrary to certain rumors, Schauf stated that “right now the plan is to go with the current meal plan for next year.” He explained that the main reason for this was because of the cost of overhead — the money it takes to run a business.
When UR used declining and clubs, the overhead came from part of the fee that paid for clubs. In the current system, that overhead comes from the unlimited plans.
He clarified that if UR was to make a shift to an all-declining system, students would not get the full value out of their plan. The amount of money that they are allotted to spend would be less than it currently is in relation to the amount that they pay for the plans, as the difference between the two is the overhead. Schauf compared UR’s system to an all-declining one used at Washington University in St. Louis, noting that UR’s meal plan setup is currently more flexible.
He also pointed out that any changes would not be feasible for next year because there is no longer enough time to work out the details of such an adjustment.
“Any substantial change isn’t going to happen for next year, but if there [are] people that want to get together and look at changes for the following year, we’re certainly willing to study it again,” Schauf said.
In response, former SA President and senior Scott Strenger suggested that Dining create a system in which students with all-declining plans — upperclassmen — pay for some of the overhead with a slightly increased price for those plans, allowing students with unlimited plans — mostly underclassmen — to receive more declining, as the low amount of declining received by students with unlimited plans has been one of the most common complaints this year.
“It’s really a giving back system,” he said.
Students were also curious about how one can appeal a meal plan they have already chosen. According to Schauf, there has been an increase of appeals in the fall and spring semesters. He attributes this to the fact that students did not pay attention to the changes until they truly began to impact their lives — an explanation he has heard directly from students themselves.
“All the questions they should have been asking last spring… became appeals,” he explained.
Schauf made sure to note that it is always possible to apply for an appeal and claimed that the process is explained everywhere the meal plan regulations are outlined.
“You need to understand, when you’re signing a contract, what you’re agreeing to,” he said.
SA President and senior Bradley Halpern agreed.
“I think it’s fair that people have to go find that information,” he said.
Senior Emily Hart, who is an RA living in the Susan B. Anthony Halls, inquired as to why the lowest meal plan available to RAs is the platinum declining plan and if it would be possible to have more options.
Schauf explained that the fact that RAs are even offered this plan is a deal in itself and that Dining is maxed out in terms of financial leverage when it comes to meal plans offered to RAs.
Theft was also a popular topic of discussion. One student asked if students really do pay an extra fee for stolen items when purchasing their meals plans.
“It is absolutely not true and theft is a huge problem for us,” Schauf responded.
Other concerns addressed at the forum included the possibility of cameras at Hillside in lieu of handing out receipts, the cost of food and communication between Dining and students.
Although no concrete decisions were made at the forum, Schauf continuously reminded attendees that he is always available to meet with students one-on-one to address concerns.
Goldin is a member of the class of 2013.