Meal plan changes raise questions


Ryan Fischer

Students using their meal plans to pay for their meals at the Memorial Student Center cafeteria, February 10, 2016.

With the recent announcement of changes in meal plan policies for the upcoming academic year, many students are weary of the decisions made by Sodexo and the Board of Governors.

Prior to registration for housing and dining programs for each semester, meal plan programs are made available to the public. Students then select their meal preferences based on their budget and make informed decisions before proceeding to the next semester.

In the 2015-2016 semester, the standard 10 meals per week option—available only to upperclassmen— totaled $1430 per semester. This plan, along with the 15-per semester plan, included accessibility via cash equivalency ($6) to the Memorial Student Center to-go restaurants such as Chick-Fil-A, Pizza Hut and Starbucks.

Residential students were only able to redeem their meal plans between 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Commuter meal plans, however, could be used more than an hour earlier in the food court.

For upper class and ambitious students, this to-go system is ideal. While rushing between classes, procuring a medium fry and a packaged container of fruit provided a swift solution for a hectic schedule.

But this year, there was a catch.

When the new housing and meal plans were announced before room retention and registration in February, the meal plans lacked a vital piece of information: the prices of each plan.

Not only were the plans lacking a concrete value, the traditional upperclassmen 10 and 15-per week plans were unable to be used in the Memorial Student Center Food Court.

The plans, which are required for students living on campus, are now offered in the following options: unlimited meals and increments of 140, 160 and 175 meals per semester with various amounts of flex dollars. Flex dollars may be redeemed as cash in the MSC Food Court, campus coffee shops, Smith Hall Simply to Go and MU Campus Express.

With the new plans also comes an addition of five meal passes for guests or parents throughout the semester and four Late Night passes per week.

But with the elimination of MSC Food selections, many students may miss their opportunities to get lunch due to a lack of time between classes or may be rejected at the door during the sporadic timeframes in which the cafeterias are closed.

In order to complete their housing application or reapplication, students were required to select one of the meal plans without having a price tag attached. Plan prices have yet to be announced. 

The issue at hand is not the lack of options, but the lack of input.

Students did not receive an opportunity to provide feedback to the schedule-altering initiative. By avoiding student opinions when making the decision, both Sodexo and the Board compromised credibility and transparency among the student population.

If students were taken into consideration before the decision was announced, the lack of involvement and Chick-Fil-A fries would be easier to ingest.