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Some students concerned about new meal plan

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Gabby Moots, a second-year in animal science, swipes a BuckID in the 18th Ave. Library on April 22. Credit: Jon McAllister / Photo Editor

Gabby Moots, a second-year in animal science, swipes a BuckID in the 18th Ave. Library on April 22. Credit: Jon McAllister / Photo Editor

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.

7 comments

  1. This fails to address one of the central concerns with the plan that the university cannot provide a straight answer to other than to say that they are vaguely increasing capacity in the new North commons location to 900, which is still not nearly enough for OSU students, especially considering the new residence halls and the sophomore living requirement. This plan bottlenecks traffic at three locations–one of which hasn’t even been built yet and had to have been planned for prior to a meal plan which more than doubles value for eating at it. There will be 22 other on-campus dining locations which you cannot get nearly as much value for eating at (one traditions visit currently costs $12.48 in cash, or 2 blocks and this swaps that for $5 or for some nebulous “market meal exchange” at a measly 3 locations). Unless OSU is planning on shutting them down, they will have to remain open and staffed, but the traditions focus of this plan ensures that constant traffic will be at all three traditions, which as a result of this conundrum–will be understaffed. Kennedy and Morrill are crowded constantly already, and the fact that current OSU students can’t make sense of this plan promises that the traditions locations are virtually the only ones which will be visited. Students will have to avoid eating at 12, 6, or most any time and they will have to slot out an entire hour or two of their day to wait in line for a few staff members trying to piece together cold meat. Oh, and could OSU do “to go” for these locations? No, because as director of dining Zia Ahmed puts it, there were food safety and “sustainability” concerns from unnamed student groups–I’ll point out that the entire extent of the supposed student input on these plans is from a number of completely unnamed groups, seen in Mr. Isaacs’s statement. The explained rationale for the traditions focus is that OSU wanted freshmen experiencing community dining–I guess being crowded together at tables and waiting 30 minutes to an hour for your food is an immersive, welcoming time for all. The more likely rationale–OSU wants to cut costs by shutting down student favorites like 12th Ave. Bread Company or Mirror Lake Creamery but doesn’t want to shut them down outright at the beginning of the year. So how else can they do this? Greatly overvalue dining at three locations, disincentivize eating anywhere but them (or the market locations), and then point to the lack of traffic and profits at locations like 12th Ave and Mirror Lake and shut them down to no outrage–and cut costs. And then there’s the question of the utter lack of value provided with these plans apart from the dismal dining experience promised at a few undermanned, overcrowded cafeterias. Take, for instance, the Buckeye 5 plan–you get one meal a day during the week and $900 dining dollars. The semester is 16 weeks, and with 7 days a week (holidays included to provide for international and out of staters who stay year-round), if we divide 900/16 we get $56.25 for the week, leading to 56.25/7 = 8.03. So students would have all of eight dollars to spend on food for the entire day during the weekend. This sums up most of the plans–inflexibility forcing one to eat at traditions, and not providing any value whatsoever for snacks, coffee, guests, and in the case of the buckeye 5, barely providing for a meal a day. Not to mention the university’s convenient resource to logic when it comes to price–because of other contingencies, they can’t assure that prices won’t be raised or certainly that they would be lowered. But fear not Buckeyes–because you can get an entire 10 % discount with dining dollars–you might save a whole $.70 on a buffalo sandwich at the 12th ave bread company. I’m sure that will assuage the financial concerns of many students. I will conclude this essay with this point–any meal plan that has to have a different option for freshmen than it does for upperclassmen is on the whole too convoluted, poorly put-together, and utterly infeasible to work. One might say it’s the Obamacare of university dining, if one takes offense to that plan.

  2. Correction: meals with a main course, side and drink were 1 swipe. That system was far better than blocks. I can’t believe they are trying to make things even worse for students with this plan.

  3. Also, you probably shouldn’t publish someone’s buck id exposing so much information like that.

  4. I thought the same thing but the numbers are blurred drat foiled again!

  5. boo hoo. care about something that matters..

  6. I swear it seems like somone is always coming up with some food scheme (excuse me, I meant plan) or other. How about the plan be simple: you (or your parnets) put a certain amount of money on the card (or pay cash). OSU sells food like vendors, and the card takes money off based on what you buy. You can get food to go, or not. Businesses, and/or the cafeterias, will generate cash, based on their ability to feed people a reasonable amount of food for a reasonable price, at reasonable times, and in a reasonable amount of time. Food options will be based on what people are willing to buy, and if not worth the money, people will go elsewhere. They can be buffet style, or a la carte. Money not spent is kept. How crazy is that?

    “Use it or lose it” systems are BS – they exist solely to allow the provider to take the money for no service whatsoever, or force kids to eat out of guilt, or simply to “get their money’s worth”.

  7. What Dan just said.

    Let the free market adjust who sells what to the students. Let simplicity reign, as it can be evaluated more easily than complicated “plans” “blocks” or whatever the new name will be.

    Bureaucrats hate simplicity and transparency.

    I’m glad to see students fighting back against the bloated, overpaid OSU administrative aristocracy.

    Karl
    spaulding.10

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