Ohio State’s redesigned meal plan system, set to launch in Fall Semester, is already coming under fire.
An online petition titled “Reject Proposed Meal Plans” was started Monday on Change.org, calling for the Board of Trustees to reject the proposed meal plans.
The petition breaks down the new system and outlines three “student concerns,” which include decreased flexibility, inconvenience to students and increased prices.
Earlier this month, OSU announced it intends to eliminate the block program and replace it with one that is anchored by “weekly traditional visits.”
The new system will offer five plans for students living on campus and two plans for commuter students. One plan, the Access 7, will not be offered to incoming first-year students.
The total visits each week differ from plan to plan, starting at five per week and maxing out at an unlimited amount of visits. These visits do not roll over week-to-week, making this a “use it or lose it” system, and can be used at any of the traditional dining locations.
Visits can be exchanged for $5 each at any nontraditional campus dining location. This exchange works like blocks, and any money not used is lost. Students who choose the unlimited visit plan will not be able to trade visits for $5, so the maximum number of exchanges per week will be limited to 14.
Another new feature of the system is Dining Dollars, which will be automatically added to a student’s BuckID when they pay for their plan. Each plan includes a different amount of Dining Dollars ranging from $100 to $900. Students will also receive a 10 percent discount when purchasing food with the Dining Dollars, which can be used at any OSU dining facility. This money will roll over until graduation.
BuckID cash will still be included with the meal plans excluding the unlimited plan, which will only give students the option to add cash to their card. The option to pay for a meal using combinations of Dining Dollars, BuckID cash and real money will still be available.
The petition had more than 2,450 supporters as of Wednesday evening — less than 50 away from its goal of 2,500. This group of supporters is made up of students, alumni and others who have expressed concern about the direction OSU is taking its dining program.
Jorge Bucki, the creator of the petition, said the new meal plan is a step backwards from the current block program and will do more harm than good.
“This is clearly not the university looking after students,” said Bucki, a third-year in economics and political science. “A petition seemed like the most effective way to raise awareness about just how bad these plans are.”
Bucki said he has run the numbers and found that these plans will not benefit students — especially those with a busy schedule.
He explained that the new system seems to be geared toward students eating at the Traditions locations, which can sometime be an inconvenient option.
“If you look at the hours for these locations, many of them close around 7 p.m.,” he said. “Often times, my days go until 3 a.m., and I’m definitely not alone in that sense.”
Bucki also expressed concern for commuter students with jobs, who might have inflexible schedules.
“Having to add on the stress of making one of these small windows at inconvenient locations … That just seems completely absurd,” he said.
Many people in support of the petition spoke out on the website, leaving comments about how the new meal plan will affect them. Some commenters argued that the new plan will be too pricey, while others see it as an overly complicated system.
Randy Hutton, who signed the petition, said he sees nothing wrong with the current block program.
“I’ve reviewed the new meal plan and I personally don’t feel like it caters to the needs of the average student like blocks do,” said Hutton, a first-year in electrical and computer engineering. “(Blocks) are probably the best way to take advantage of every available dining location on campus.”
Although he isn’t happy about the new system, Hutton doesn’t think it is a lost cause just yet.
“I don’t think we need to totally get rid of this new system,” he said. “I don’t know all the logistics, but they just need to tweak it so it isn’t so reliant on Traditions visits.”
The negative reviews highlighted by the petition are not new to OSU, as the original shift from “swipes” to “blocks” in fall 2012 was also met with a mixed reaction.
“I hate standing in line and trying to figure out if I have enough or too much food,” said Hannah Perrino, a then-second-year in architecture, in a Sept. 10, 2012 Lantern article.
Swipes allowed a student to pair a meal together. A snack might be one swipe while a meal with a main course and a side could be two or more swipes.
Dave Isaacs, spokesman for the Office of Student Life, said the new system “incorporates many of the suggestions we heard from students during the (designing) process.”
“The dining plans are designed to provide students with the maximum flexibility possible, while ensuring they have access to nutritious, well-rounded meals in convenient locations,” he said in an email.
Isaacs also explained that the “debit card-like system” some petition-supporters have called for came with other fees that some students did not approve of.
“While it is used by a number of other universities, many of those institutions also charge an upfront nonrefundable ‘administrative fee,’” he said. “The students involved in helping us design Ohio State’s proposed plans were strongly opposed to administrative fees.”
Isaacs said Student Life would be happy to meet with advocates of the petition to discuss the details of the proposed dining plans.