Each academic break, a number of students remain on campus. Some students stay for work-study jobs on campus or because they do not have the financial means to travel home. A portion of athletes are also required to stay on campus over breaks if their sports are in season.
We at The Miscellany News believe that the College does a disservice to these groups of students by severely limiting their food options on campus and failing to provide adequate support in terms of amenities like heat, clean water and access to food off campus.
Students who live on campus over break have to pay for access to residential houses. The cost is $150 for winter break and $75 for spring break. Although during winter break students must reside in Noyes, during spring break students have recently been allowed to remain in their own rooms. This access, however, does not come with the same privileges as it would during regular school terms.
During both winter break and spring break, the Deece is completely closed. The Kiosk, UPC and Express Lunch are also closed, while the Retreat stays open only on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. During this time, the grill is also closed, meaning students’ only on-campus food option is premade Retreat food, the salad bar and a small variety of unsubstantive and unhealthy snacks.
These reduced hours and options leave students without reliable, cost-efficient food options at night and on the weekends. During these times, students are forced to cook their own meals in house kitchens, look off-campus or spend exorbitant amounts of money or dining bucks at the Retreat for all their meals.
The school does not help students navigate these options or their time on campus during break.
Despite sending out many emails concerning the logistics of staying on campus over break and the possible repercussions for trying to stay without paying, there were no emails sent out concerning the limited food options during the break. This left students with relatively no time to prepare for the break and utilize resources that are only available while school is in session, like the shuttle off campus or Express lunch.
Additionally, the break hours for the Retreat were not posted until the Friday before break began, which only served to disillusion students about the availability of food on campus and leave them completely unprepared for the weekend during which all dining options on campus were closed.
Both of these options cost students out-of-pocket money not covered by the housing fee or even subsidized by the college. Students could use their dining bucks at the Retreat, but it is then difficult for students to conserve dining bucks for the rest of the semester.
There is no way to use meal swipes during academic breaks which are the aspect of the meal plan that often is more unused by the end of the semester.
Without a car or access to transportation, students are limited to the food options in Arlington. My Market is the only grocery store within walking distance and is significantly more expensive than bigger chains and has a more limited selection.
Even if students did have better access to groceries, it would still be difficult for them to cook their own meals as house kitchens aren’t stocked with cooking utensils. Students must either purchase their own pots, pans, etc. or borrow someone else’s.
Given that many students who stay on campus over breaks do so for economic reasons, this lack of support is particularly unacceptable. It is absurd to ask students to pay to stay on campus during a two-week break, especially if the College is not going to support them with the proper amenities.
The heating in the dorms was shut off, numerous dorms became infested with mice, and water in Cushing was brown for several days before the College got around to addressing the concern.
These policies disproportionately affect low-income and international students who often have limited options in terms of going home or traveling for academic breaks. These concerns need to be addressed, especially since they restrict basic access to food and place students in financially straining situations.
Although keeping the Deece open during long breaks would be costly for the school given the relatively small number of students who remain on campus, there are many other ways the school can help students access healthy foods for all three meals. We at The Miscellany News believe there needs to be more assistance for students during this time.
At the very least, the school should operate shuttles to and from grocery stores. Additionally, there should be a meal swipe equivalency at the Retreat so that students are not forced to use out-of-pocket money, rather than the money they have already paid for meals. The school could also put together bagged lunches in exchange for meal swipes, as it has done over previous winter breaks, in order to make food more accessible after the Retreat closes.
Vassar offers shuttles to and from the Poughkeepsie Train Station during breaks. It also offers airport shuttles for a cost. The school reimburses students for transportation to and from Field Work. There is no excuse for the school not to operate daily shuttles to and from Stop and Shop (which is closer to campus than the train station) or another low-cost healthy food store.
It seems backwards that the school expects students who cannot afford to travel home to pay for their own transportation to and from the grocery store, while offering students who can afford to travel free shuttles. Certainly, the college can accommodate both groups of students.
While many administrators and professors do not reside on campus and can go home at the end of the workday, most students do not have the luxury of being able to leave campus. Thus, it is even more important for the College to provide adequate support for students who stay on campus.
Even though it may be an academic break, many students are living at school because it is their home. When access to food is greatly restricted on campus, it is not as if students can go to their home kitchens for meals.
When there are mice running rampant through buildings on campus, it is not as if students can escape the infestation by leaving campus for the night.
We at The Miscellany News think that the administration needs to think about the lack of options students have in general on campus and the ways that limiting options on campus essentially limits the options students have in their homes.
—The Staff Editorial represents at least 2/3 opinions of the Editorial Board of the Miscellany News.