September 19, 2000

Meal Plan Changes

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New campus meal plans may make it harder for students to trade in their unused meals for a cash equivalent this semester by reducing the number of opportunities students have to collect uneaten meals at facilities such as the Ivy Room, Martha’s and Bear Necessities. Instead, they will have to make time to eat at all-you can eat facilities such as Robert Purcell, Risley, Jansen’s and Okenshields.

“You’re not getting your money’s worth,” said Engin Ipek ’03. “Many times you just don’t eat all your meals and even though you haven’t eaten anything you’re still paying for the meal.”

New meal plans limit access to cash-op facilities cutting down on both the amount of meals students can trade in and the amount of money they can spend at the cash-op facilities. With only four all-you-can-eat dining facilities on campus, the reduced number of meal equivalencies cause inconvenience to students who eat at irregular hours.

The new meal equivalency spending limits are fixed at $3.00 for breakfast, $5.50 for lunch and $5.75 for dinner. The different plans allow less opportunity and flexibility to cash in meal tickets with the “any 5 meals per week” and “any 7 meals per week” plans, taking the greatest cut at one equivalency per week.

Campus Life has already seen the effect of some of these changes. According to Siddiqui, most students have opted to change their meal plans from the smaller five, seven or ten meals per week to the larger 14,17 or 20 meals per week because the larger meal plans ae more flexible including more Big Red Bucks (BRB) and more meal equivalencies.

Although the larger plans include more meal equivalencies, Campus Life reports that students are dining at the all-you-can-eat facilities more often, with lunchtime numbers at Okenshield’s and Jansen’s rising from the 200s to anywhere between 400 and 500, according to Siddiqui. This increased attendance is “helping to balance the financial situation of campus life while still allowing for great service to the Cornell community,” said Nadeem Siddiqui, director of Cornell Dining and Retail Services.

The new meal plans are the fruit of a debated and difficult compromise. As the co-chair of the dining committee, Johann Chau ’02 is confident that the meal equivalencies will always be a part of Cornell Dining. “Gorges are to Ithaca as meal equivalencies are to meal plan,” Chau said. Siddiqui “invites suggestions from anyone who can think of a better solution.”

Providing students with unlimited access to cash facilities and good service became “financially hard to balance,” Siddiqui said.

Cornell Dining is a “non-profit organization that tries to take care of students’ needs by providing good flexible service,” Siddiqui added. “But to make dining financially sound we had to put a limit on the frequency of cash-op equivalencies.”

In Spring 1999, Cornell Dining attempted to remove the meal equivalency option from the meal plan, but student efforts, lead by Chau saved the program. Chau was responsible for organizing a petition supported by 1000 students.

In response to students’ demands, Cornell Dining gave back the equivalencies in what was described by Chau as an “unlimited, superflexible and super-rich” manner. As a result, students could use any left-over meals to shop at convenience centers around campus.

By the end of Spring 2000, students discovered the loopholes in the plan and began to stock their fridges with soda, juice, and other goods at cash-op facilities and convenience centers such as Bear Necessities, according to Campus Life.

During the course of only one year, these meal plan terms put Campus Life into a financially unfavorable situation. In an attempt to compromise with students, Campus Life brought the meal plan issue to the Student Assembly to resolve the situation according to Siddiqui. The assembly decided to compromise with Campus Life, voting on a new meal plan that would reduce the meal equivalencies and the amount of BRB that each plan was allotted instead of eliminating either option altogether. In previous years, students depended on BRB, which are as good as cash at any dining facility, to purchase snacks on campus.

As a result of the compromise, students now have limited opportunities to cash in their meals and are concerned that uneaten meals will be completely lost.

Archived article by Maria Rosso