$800 meal plan hike postponed

The days of running out of meal blocks and rushing to add more points to meals plans may soon be history at UVM, but not just yet.Annie Stevens, the Vice President of Campus and Student Life began talking with members of the Stu?dent Government Association (SGA) and the Inter Residence Association (IRA) this past semester to create a proposal for a more accommodating meal plan, Senator of the Student Action Committee, Lauren Abda, said.”The plan worked quite well in the past, but things are very different today. Students’ demands have changed,” she said.The meal plan at the University is 15 years old, Stevens said. About four years ago, Rick Riani, the district manager for dining services, came to her to discuss the problems of the current meal plan, Stevens said.”[We discussed] the issues students have been having with the cur?rent meal plan,” Abda said, “[for example] running out of points early in the semester, [and] not updating the meal plan to account for the institution of such places like the Davis Center.”Stevens, along with a meal plan task force, introduced the proposed revisions to the current plan to SGA last Tuesday.However, the proposal was not passed. “The vote was 12 yays and 22 nays,” Speaker of the Senate, Mike Glynne, said.The proposal was rejected in part because of the increased costs that students would have to pay next year, Senator of the Student Action Committee, Josh Mangiagli, said.Each student would be paying an average of $800, or 30 percent more, depending on the plan he or she now has, Stevens said. Although this may seem like a substantial increase, “…the cost paid at the beginning of the semester now is not reflective to the true cost to dine at the University,” Mangliagli said.Jay Taylor, Chair of the Student Action Committee, agrees. “It seems like it’s just an increase in what students are paying but really it’s more than that.””It’s not like students will be paying more for the same thing, students will get a lot more out of their meal plan,” he said.Halfway through the semester, students run out of points and do one of three things, Abda said.”1) They add more points to their meal plan, 2) they pay cash out of their pocket for food on campus or 3) they pay cash for food in grocery stores and are forced to make all of their meals themselves,” she said.A total of $472,963 was added to all-point plans last year, Stevens said. “Students spent over 16 percent of their retail points at Residential Dining locations.”To prevent this, the new meal plan proposed giving all students unlimited dining in all facilities; the only difference between the premium, average and basic plans would be the number of points attached, Stevens said.The Committee on Diversity, Equity and Environmental Ethics (CODEEE) felt that there needed to be adjustments made to the proposal, Chair of CODEEE, Jesse Bragg, said.”I think it unreasonable to impose such a huge increase on students all at once. Furthermore, I fear that the students who are paying for this will never reap the benefits,” he said.CODEEE provided recommendations to the Senate, stating what they felt needed to change in the meal plan proposal, Bragg said.Some of their recommendations, according to the “Meal Plan Change Proposal Recom?mendations” CODEE designed include, a detailed and informative explanation for students and families on where the added funds will be going and a guarantee and timeline to expansion initiatives such as cage-free eggs, organic goods and kosher foods.Because of the rejection of the proposal by the Senate, “members of the Student Action Committee are going to continue to work with this legislation in the upcoming months,” Abda said.Although Stevens and the task force brought the proposal before the SGA, the Senate does not determine whether or not the new meal plan will be implemented, President of the SGA, Kesha Ram, said.”The Board of Trustees makes the final decisions on financial matters such as these,” she said, “but they want to know students’ opinions as they will ultimately be paying for it.”SGA approval gives some indication of how students perceive such an increase,” Ram said.”I think the new plan would be ripping kids off,” freshman Jackie Bartko said. “I don’t understand why you couldn’t just add points to the Carte Blanche instead of changing the whole system.””I don’t think it’s fair that students like me, who don’t even use all of the points I’m forced to buy, pay more money so other students can eat even more food,” freshman Carmen Solari said.Another student who lives in Slade Hall has a different view of the meal plan completely. “I’m not even on a meal plan. Slade is an example that buying local and organic isn’t expensive, and we have plenty of food to eat,” sophomore Greg Soll said.Then, there are those who do not view the new plan as all-bad. “I think the task force has good intentions,” junior Kate Turcotte said, “but I’d like to see more student involvement.”It is possible that the meal plan restructuring will not be addressed in the Board of Trustees meeting in February, and will instead be postponed until next year because of feedback received thus far, Ram said.”There is a lack of clarity about what students will be paying for and how they stand to benefit with that price increase,” Ram said.”Ultimately, student apprehension is driving forces in the decision of whether or not to include the meal plan in the meeting’s agenda.”Members of the Senior Administration decided if the proposed restructuring would make it on the trustees’ agenda, which was finalized on Monday, Ram said.