Recently, Vassar College announced that there was a change in the meal plans for students. In previous year, Vassar students,were given 25 extra guest swipes to use for themselves or others in order to gain entrance into the All Campus Dining Center (ACDC).
This year, Vassar has reduced the allotted number of guest swipes to five while adding 40 dollars in dining bucks. We at The Miscellany News feel that this change has a detrimental effect on not only the eating habits of students, but campus life overall.
The decision to decrease guest swipes was made without student consultation or consideration. Upperclassmen choosing their meal plan at the end of the previous year were not aware of this change since it was the College did not announce it until August.
In conjunction with these alterations, the price per meal increased from $13 a meal to $15 a meal, with no noticeable improvement in food quality. While the wages of ACDC and Retreat workers has increased due to a new contract, there are methods of managing this wage increase and keeping the cost of meal plans of students from inflating.
To take away 15 guest meal swipes while also raising the price of a meal is counterintuitive as students are getting less at a higher cost.
In an email from the Dean of the College Chris Roellke, Roellke stated that students, on average only used 10 of their guest swipes and that is what had prompted the reduction from 25 to five.
However, this does not account for the students who swiped in guests with regular meal swipes and those who would far exceed 10 guest swipes. The consequent decision to reduce the number of guest swipes to five when the data from the study found that students use an average of 10 guest swipes shows the administration’s willingness to compromise student need for unjustified reasons. Using an arbitrary average ignores various outside factors and is not an accurate measurement of the usage of guest swipes.
A large part of Vassar’s student organizations, sports teams and language classes is eating meals together. It’s important for community and team bonding to dine together at the ACDC after practices. With students who are on a meal plan only being granted five guest swipes, it becomes a problem of how many people and how many times that could create tension and affect team dynamics.
With students of different class years and housing situations, dining together in the ACDC has become common ground for org members and teammates. As such, Vassar is creating a greater divide between seniors and underclassmen in limiting the access to this central space.
For many language classes, a conversation session is a class requirement, and for most groups, these take place over dinner in the ACDC. Since these classes are often led by seniors and juniors who have mastery of the language, placing limitations on guest swipes makes it nearly impossible to continue conducting these meetings as they have been in the past. These language tables are vital learning experiences that take place outside of the classroom and allow students to learn from their peers in a more casual environment.
Additionally, the meal plan changes also affect family members and guests who visit. Students typically take their family members to the ACDC for lunch or dinner if they cannot afford to all go out for dinner. Now, family visits will either drain the student of guest swipes, or force them to go off campus to eat.
According to campus policy, students are allowed to have a guest for up to three days. If a student were to feed their guest three meals a day for all three days of their visit, five guest meal swipes would be insufficient and the student would have used all of them at once. The number of guest swipes on the meal plan should at least cover the number of meals a guest would consume during the granted days of visitation.
While there appear to be many downsides surrounding this new policy, students may be more inclined to support it if there were clear reasons why this decision was made. However, there appear to be no dramatic improvement in the wage rates of ACDC workers and other employees of Vassar College. The recent change in the minimum wage rate in the state of New York has helped increase salaries across the board. Yet, following that change, Aramark changed the Vassar meal plan without providing livable wages to dining hall employees. There have also been no changes in the menu or food options for students. There is ultimately a lack of clarity as to the benefits that Vassar and Aramark are receiving due to this change other than pure profit.
Unrest within the student body has grown due to the lack of transparency during the decision-making process. There was no consultation with anyone other than upper-level administrators during the summer, taking the voice of the students, faculty and employees of the College out of the equation. Many students did not know about the meal plan changes until they returned to Vassar for the current academic year. It was also released recently that the policy of not being able to use guest swipes on oneself has been a rule for many years; this policy was never enforced, but the administration argued that technically this policy is not new.
Still, students were not aware of this alteration, and the rule has just now started to be enforced by the College. A lack of candor surrounding this change only further contributes to the level of mistrust that many students hold towards Vassar College and upper level administrators.
We at The Miscellany News propose that the College consider restoring the number of guest swipes or allowing students to use their regular meal swipes on guests. These changes should be made as soon as possible during this critical period wherein new members are entering organizations, teams and forging bonds that will set the tone for the rest of the semester. And, most importantly, we recommend that any changes be made with student consultation and input.
—The Staff Editorial represents the opinions of at least 2/3 of the Editorial Board.