by Sarah Lehr and Graham Reid
Kenyon’s simple, no-swipes-required meal plan makes trips to the Peirce Hall servery painless during the school year, but this year the situation proved more complicated for students who arrived early. Groups sponsoring early arrival are technically required to purchase half of their meals from Peirce, but for the last few years, enforcement of this rule has been lenient, in line with Peirce’s usual school-year “open-door policy.”
Recently, however, the College began requiring early arrivals to swipe their K-Cards at the servery entrance, and later switched to requiring wristbands distributed by AVI workers to access the dining hall.
Associate Dean of Students Tacci Smith, who also serves as the director of New Student Orientation and community service, estimated that around 800 upperclassmen arrived early this year, and meal purchases peaked at over 400 students on Saturday, Aug. 23 when the first-year students arrived. Groups like pre-Orientation programs, athletic teams, Sexual Misconduct Advisors and and the Collegian must prepay AVI to feed their early-arrival participants before they are covered by the normal meal plan when the official school year starts. Per student, AVI charges $3.60 for breakfast, $6.00 for lunch and $6.90 for dinner.
Smith characterized the requirement for early arrivals to purchase half of their meals at Peirce as both “confusing” and “difficult to monitor.” After the K-Card swiping system led to long lines, AVI reverted to only checking wristbands.
Smith also said she expressed opposition to requiring K-Card swipes when the plan came to her attention in early August. Smith had concerns about delays and said that, in her understanding, the College’s business office primarily intended to discover if a similar system would be feasible for summer conferences, which often host non-student groups who pay for meals in Peirce.
“I said, ‘Summer conferences had all summer to figure this out,”’ Smith recalled. “So you’re basically telling me that [students are] going to kind of be the guinea pigs?”
Manager of Business Services Fred Linger said the College tried K-Card scanning in part with an eye to conference possibilities, but also to verify that only students registered for meals ate in Peirce. “The part of this we were pleased with was that the count did seem to be accurate,” Linger said of the number of diners revealed by K-Card scan receipts.
AVI Resident Director Kim Novak found headcounts performed by check-in cashiers as students entered the survey yielded numbers within five to 10 percent of the number of students whose meals were paid for — a reasonable figure given the potential inaccuracies of headcounts gathered by a person.
Novak worried that Peirce’s previous “honor system” for early arrivals lacked accountability. She believes that proper organization, such as tentative arrival schedules and more check-in cashiers, could overcome the long wait times in future years. “The card system can work,” she said. She also acknowledged that such a change would have a downside: losing “the Kenyon culture of entering and leaving [Peirce] at your own pace.”
Yet the laidback culture at Peirce isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Linger noted that the business office is not considering requiring K-Card swipes during the regular school year.
Peer Counselor Katie Moss ’15, who arrived on campus early for training, emphasized the importance of flexibility in scheduling meals. The Peer Counselors decided not to purchase breakfast or lunch at Peirce on Monday, Aug. 25, because they ate during their training with Counseling Center staff.
Though they were allowed to arrive as early as Saturday, Aug. 23, the Peer Counselors decided not to prepay for Peirce meals — despite the rule requiring that groups do so — before their first day of training. They opted to pay only for dinner on Monday, Aug. 25, the first meal they were required to buy as early arrivals. Moss believed those meals would have gone unused by Peer Counselors, thus wasting the group’s funds. “Last year we made arrangements ahead of time to have everybody eat all [their] meals in Peirce,” she said. “[A]nd then people were just seeing their friends and eating out anyway.” Moss did not think that any of her fellow Peer Counselors abused the system by eating unpaid-for meals at Peirce this year.
Since many Kenyon students are far from singular in their interests and activities, some early arrivals fell into more than one group, and therefore their respective groups risked double-paying for those students’ meals. AVI leaves it up to the groups involved to avoid double-paying for one student’s meals: figuring out if there’s any overlap is “the responsibility of the group,” Novak said.
Despite the organizational challenge, Novak enjoys the early-arrival period. “It’s really a great joy for us because it’s a great time for local foods and produce,” she said. “Everyone’s in pretty good spirits to be back.”