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Proposed changes to the residence meal plans are out of touch with students’ needs

By Jesse Stilwell, October 11, 2017 —

The University of Calgary Board of Governors should not approve changes to the residence meal plans as they are currently proposed. Doing so would be exploitative and prove that the administration and Residence Students’ Association are out of touch with students’ needs.

Students want nutritious food that is readily accessible. The food that is currently available in the Dining Centre is overpriced and unhealthy. The proposed changes do not address these issues and create new problems. This is largely because the U of C’s administration, the Residence Students’ Association and the Students’ Union struggled to communicate. It has been difficult to gather information about these changes since these offices have told different stories about them.

A few things are clear. The changes to the Dining Centre will include taking away different food stations, such as the smoothie bar, stir-fry station and salad bar in favour of one massive buffet. This will be called an “All You Care To Eat” plan. The changes would also decrease the Food Fund, which allows students to purchase food outside of the Dining Centre with their Unicard, like Tim Hortons and Jugo Juice in MacHall. Diversity in choice is one of the best aspects of the meal plan and should not be changed.

Another proposed change is that students will no longer be able to take their food out of the Dining Centre unless they pre-order take out. It makes no sense that a student could take food from MacHall anywhere they like, but not from the Dining Centre. Having the freedom to easily munch on a snack while studying in your residence room should not be a privilege the university can take away.

The worst part of these changes is that they come with a cost increase. Purchasing a meal plan is mandatory for those who wish to live in first-year residence, so the cost should be kept to a minimum. There is no reason to remove choices and restrict where people can eat while hiking the price. This exploits first-year students who have no choice but to purchase these plans with a cost that’s already hard to justify, especially when living off campus is more popular than residence at the U of C. Passively allowing this cost increase to reach the BOG unopposed demonstrates that the RSA is out of touch with the students they are supposed to represent.

Every residence student should hope that our administrators reject these changes when they vote in December. Despite its problems, not changing the meal plan at all is a better option than this proposal. Thankfully, the SU sees this as well. There is a good reason that no other university in Alberta offered a plan like this until this year — these programs do not serve students’ needs. The U of C should not throw away the already meager quality of the Dining Centre.

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