April 17, 2019

EDITORIAL: Cornell, Stop Swiping Students’ Swipes

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You have the stomach flu. You can’t bear to have your thoughts drift to anything food-related. But wait — it’s Thursday. Your meal swipes expire if you don’t use them today. What do you do? Forfeit the money? Sit in the dining hall and smell your money’s worth? Force the food down to make sure you don’t waste the $16.45 you paid for dinner?

The weekly expiration of Cornell Dining meal swipes is a misuse of student money. Every meal that students have through their meal plan, they paid for. Cornell Dining even gives an itemized list of what each meal is priced at.

Breakfast: $9.45
Lunch M-Sa: $13.40
Late Lunch: $10.95
Dinner: $16.45
Sunday Brunch: $14.75

Mind you, these prices are even more expensive than last year’s, according to the Cornell Dining website.

The problem does not lie with all meal plans. Cornell Dining does a fair job accommodating upperclassmen’s various housing situations and off-campus meal plan preferences. The problem rests with first-year meal plans. Cornell Dining has five categories for meal plans, and first-year students fall under an inconvenient one.

Every option for first-year students, besides the unlimited plan, has meal swipes that expire weekly on Thursdays. But it’s difficult to understand why those prepaid meals suddenly vanish. Is it so unreasonable for a student with a 10 meal per week plan to use 11 on one week if they only used nine the previous?

Every week a student doesn’t use every single meal swipe, they watch their money slip away. Cornell’s exams, and thus Cornellians’ workloads, aren’t spaced out evenly week by week. So why should meal plans be?

The options Cornell presents for first-year dining plans are not comparable to peer institutions. Only Columbia University has week-to-week expirations. The remaining six Ivy League universities understand that students might vary how much or how often they want to eat. They allow students to divide up a set number of meal swipes for the semester or require an unlimited meal plan.

This year Cornell Dining gave students an opportunity to donate their bonus guest swipes to fellow students. But just the guest swipes. Not the meals they didn’t use that week. Even though these first-year students paid for every single meal. Cornell Dining, in other words, doesn’t believe students should be able to donate their (or their parents’) money.

It’s not as if the solution is particularly hard, either. Big Red Bucks already roll over from the Fall to Spring semester, so why can’t meal swipes roll over from week to week? Not year-to-year. Not semester-to-semester. But simply week-to-week — within a semester that is already paid for. Students would purchase a fixed chunk of meal swipes for the semester, which they’d be able to budget as they please. It would put an end to Cornell profiting off students who just happened to come down with a nasty case of the stomach flu.

The above editorial reflects the opinions of The Cornell Daily Sun. Editorials are penned collaboratively between the Editor-in-Chief, Associate Editor and Opinion Editor, in consultation with additional Sun editors and staffers. The Sun’s editorials are independent of its news coverage and op-eds.