Section: News

College meal plan riles some students

College meal plan riles some students

by Cora Markowitz

by Mary Sawyer

The total cost of Kenyon’s only meal plan in the 2014-2015 academic year — which covers unlimited access to Peirce Hall during operating hours — came to $6,530 per student. With approximately 1,700 students, Kenyon remains an outlier with a flat-rate mandatory meal plan. Most other higher education institutions use a point system or limit student access to the dining halls in some way.

The $6,530 price covers a meal plan that Associate Vice President for Finance Todd Burson described as “all-encompassing — as much as you can eat, anything you want.” It accounts for 11 percent of the total cost of tuition, which is $58,890. Since the 2010-2011 school year, the cost of the meal plan has increased by $1,310.

An ongoing discussion on campus revolves around the question of whether Kenyon should switch to a point system as most other schools across the nation have done. In this system, students would pay for a certain number of points per week, or semester, and would pay only for what they use.

In February, the Housing and Dining Committee discussed a proposal that would alter the current plan. Chair of Housing and Dining Phoebe Roe ’16, who is a Collegian staff writer,  elaborated on the suggestions: “If [Kenyon] were to switch to a point system, … the issue is, where would we put a K-Card reader [and] checkpoints?” she said. “If you don’t have enough points, then you [wouldn’t be able to] get into Peirce, which … complicates things as far as [meetings] for different clubs.” Roe added that the software for a point system would be complicated to install because it would require active administration limiting access to Peirce based on individual meal plans. Furthermore, it would prevent students from being able to casually eat at Peirce at any given hour the servery doors are open.

Students’ opinions on the meal plan are varied, usually influenced by their schedules, dietary restrictions and living circumstances. Many students feel that they lose money because of the low number of meals per week they actually eat in the dining hall.

The greatest backlash for the meal plan comes from residents of apartments, including those in the North Campus Apartments (NCAs), which feature full kitchens. NCA resident Cristina Nunes ’15 dislikes the format of the meal plan because she has to pay for it while having access to her own kitchen. “It is ridiculous [that we are] paying for three meals a day, but I haven’t gone to Peirce for three meals in [about] two years,” Nunes said. “They should at least give people the option to opt out.”

AVI Resident Director Kim Novak said Kenyon is the first place she has worked where students have this type of meal plan. “[Students] can come and go as [they] please; it seems that’s the Kenyon culture.” The official count of students on Wednesday (Peirce’s busiest day) of last week, which Novak said was consistent with Wednesdays throughout the year, was 607 students for breakfast, 1,519 at lunch and 1,441 at dinner.

Part of the cost of the meal plan stems from Peirce’s locally sourced food. “Processing local food is more expensive,” Burson said. With nearly half the food Kenyon serves being local, this could make the meal plan more expensive. Student groups, such as People Endorsing Agrarian Sustainability (PEAS), aim to “connect the campus with the local portion of Peirce [and] educate people about [food in] Peirce,” according to PEAS co-president Laura Gumpert ’17. 

It does not seem Kenyon will change its policies in the future. Although some students complain, many still enjoy Peirce. “I understand people’s complaints,” Lei Marshall ’18 said. “But honestly I think [the meal plan] is a huge benefit to campus.”

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