Committee says meal equivalency solves student complaints

Erin Ward

Members of the University Dining Services Committee said they are confident they have solved the problem with the meal plan that sparked controversy Fall Quarter.

The new plan, announced at Wednesday’s ASG meeting, will include a modified form of meal equivalency. Instead of all meals being the same price, breakfast will be worth $4.50, lunch and late-night $6.60 and dinner $8.50. Under the current Block Plans, all dining hall meals could be exchanged for $6.60 worth of food at a la carte locations such as Willie’s Food Court.

Mike Fong, ASG’s student services vice president and a member of the Dining Services Committee, said the new program will be popular with students because it offers more flexibility.

The dining committee based its decision on more than 400 student responses to surveys distributed online and at dining halls. Students were able to rate the quality of service, availability of to-go and grocery food items, location of dining halls and flexibility of programs on a scale of 1 to 7.

The committee rejected some requests because they weren’t feasible, according to an ASG pamphlet. For example, some students expressed interest in a declining balance system where students would start with a certain amount of money and use it throughout the year. The committee decided the plan would not provide sufficient funds to maintain the dining halls.

During Fall Quarter, some students expressed frustration with the Block Plan for eliminating meal equivalency and not fulfilling the contracts students had signed.

The university reinstated meal equivalency mid-Fall Quarter for students on the Block Plan, but those who were not on the Block Plan at the time of the announcement weren’t granted that option.

Some students said they were pleased with the new system because it offers the flexibility the current plans lack. Some cited the Flex Plan offered in the past as a system the new plan should emulate.

Others said they preferred the new price tiers to the current system, where students pay the same amount for a meal regardless of what meal is purchased.

“I thought (the traditional meal plan) was horribly overpriced,” said Erin Williams, a Medill senior. “I think this makes more sense.”

In addition, the committee plans to begin work on a Library Plaza cafe and upgrades to the Foster-Walker Complex dining hall in the near future. Einstein’s Bagels is scheduled to open on-campus in the fall.

Paul Komelasky, SodexhoUSA district manager, was unavailable for comment.