Meal equivalency returns

Responding to concerns about errors in the meal contract, Vice President for Student Affairs William Banis said Sunday that the university will honor the original wording of the document.

SodexhoUSA’s dining brochure, the Northwestern University Dining Services Web site and a section of the meal contract describing the Block Plan incorrectly stated that meal equivalency could be used at a la carte dining locations.

“I have to agree that the literature was confusing and misleading and I apologize for that confusion,” Banis said. “That’s clearly our error, and I’ve asked the food service staff to correct the literature. We need to honor the offer that we put forth.”

Students using one of the two Block plans will be able to use each meal for $6.60 worth of food at a la carte dining locations on campus, as stipulated in the meal contract, for the remainder of the academic year.

Banis said this change will take effect in a few days, once SodexhoUSA employees update the computers.

In order to use Block Plan meals for the $6.60 equivalency, students must have switched to the one of the Block plans before today.

About 1,000 students are affected by the change, Banis said.

Students who now transfer to the Block Plan will receive the meal plan intended by the dining services committee last year and still will not be able to use their meals at a la carte locations such as Willie’s Food Court, Willie’s Too and Sbarro.

Responding to other student concerns about dining options, Banis said the dining committee will continue to evaluate the new meal plans throughout the year.

But organizers of today’s rally to protest the new meal plans said they still will gather at The Rock at 4 p.m., but now will do it simply to increase awareness.

“There were two basic points to the rally,” said Michael Cohen, a Weinberg sophomore and one of the rally’s organizers. “One was to raise awareness of the issue and the other was to put pressure on administrators to restore the meal equivalencies.”

Cohen said he is concerned meal equivalency will be discontinued once the year ends but added that he is pleased with Banis’ decision to follow the meal plan rules as stipulated in the contract.

“It’s almost as much a victory celebration now as it is a rally,” Cohen said.

After reading an article in The Daily on Friday that highlighted student concerns about the misleading contract, Banis said he and representatives from SodexhoUSA reviewed the literature and agreed there is a discrepancy.

“I read (the literature) from a consumer’s point of view and I thought it … was not explicit enough, and obviously it was in error,” Banis said. “If we weren’t clear about what that wording is, we need to vote in favor of the consumer.”

Banis said the main contributor to the problem was the complexity of the meal plan language.

Those in charge of updating the information had made an honest mistake, he said.

He added that the university will make adjustments to all written documents concerning the meal plan, such as the dining services brochure and the Web site.

Communication junior Jessica Sturgeon, who wrote an e-mail to Residential Life officials regarding the erroneous contract, said she has not yet met with administrators but feels it no longer is necessary.

“They are giving me what they told me they would give me,” Sturgeon said. “I’m not going to press it anymore.”

When Weinberg junior Sara Rodriguez heard meal equivalency was restored, she said she was satisfied and no longer felt the need to attend the rally because her concerns were addressed.

“Being forced to use the meals only in the dining hall didn’t work for me,” she said. “I couldn’t make it to the dining hall and the points weren’t enough to make it through the quarter.

“None of the plans worked for me like the Flex Plan worked for me last year.”