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COW meal plan necessitates revisiting

Every time you swipe to eat, you are paying $12 on Meal Plan A. For every swipe you don’t use by the end of the term, you are wasting $12. Yet, if you pay in cash, breakfast costs $5, lunch costs $7 and dinner costs $9. It’s simple math: (board fee – flex dollars)/number of swipes = swipe value. As our board fee increases every year, our worth per swipe becomes higher and higher.

Just as much as I want to know where my food comes from, I want to know where my money goes. This is why I was confused when my tuition, room and board fee kept on increasing though the academics, room and food quality have changed subtly. Since my first year, my financial aid increased only by few hundred dollars while the invoice now charges me $2,265 more. For three years, to resolve my frustration, I have been working to improve the meal plan as a SGA member.

My first year, I joined SGA in hopes of improving the dining services at COW. I wanted the school to not only provide better food, but also to have more flexibility in meal plan options. One fixed board fee for every student on this campus, from athletes to vegans, did not make sense to me. Though dining services were mildly flexible about improving item selection at the C-store, they were never willing to discuss too much about the finance (meal plan flexibility or making the meal plan non-mandatory). Simply, it has been a rough process.

My first year, the dining service postponed talking about modifying meal plans because 1) it’s going to be a long job and 2) I did not know enough of why we have meal plans. So, I did all my research. It was hard to obtain information as some staff members were not comfortable talking about how money works in the background to a random student. I met with Dee McCormick, vice president for finance and business to consider redesigning the budget plan at COW.

My second year, after accumulating all the details I could have possibly gained, I brought the topic back to the table. Dee postponed the discussion, again, because I did not have proof that this topic was what students were concerned about. I emailed my frustration to President Sarah Bolton directly, but she told me that dining service is already working with me on this and there was nothing further she could or would do.

My third year, this year, having the data of an SGA survey showing that only four percent of students feel the current meal plan is a great value (and 60 percent saying they have swipes leftover at the end of the term), I approached Dee and dining staff again. This time, because the focus was more on finance, the dining service staff was not included, but Dean of Students Scott Brown and Dee were invited to the discussion. I wanted to start early so that I could see the change in my senior year. I persistently emailed Dean Brown and Dee to set a meeting date to avoid any more “postponing.” After about a month, finally a date was set.

Dean Brown and I decided to have a brief meeting a few days before to check whether we were all on the same page for the real meeting, and this went totally wrong. In that brief meeting, I was told that the meal plan is not even on the agenda; that the budget for next year has been already determined and nothing will change for the meal plan. To be honest, I felt betrayed. In every insistent email I sent, I purposely mentioned the meal plan, but they decided to reveal that it was not on the agenda only two days before the meeting. No one invited me when the staff discussed next year’s meal plan, though Dee, Dean Brown and dining staff clearly knew that there was a student representative who was striving to modify it. Even worse, they cancelled the real meeting because there was “no more discussion necessary.”

Seemed like my advocacy was not good enough to earn understanding from dining staff, housing staff, Dean Brown, Dee nor Sarah Bolton. We need more students who are on the same page and who desire to improve the dining experience here at Wooster. If I’m the only one advocating, I become merely “that meddling student”. However, if more and more students are concerned, it becomes the voice of students. Think about it. Ignorance is strength, as George Orwell stated in 1984. Maybe 90 percent of our tuition is being accumulated for the president’s future holiday trip to the North Pole. Who knows? Us not knowing how the money is being distributed and used gives the power to the College to do anything with it. I’m focusing on the meal plan but tuition and board fees are increasing every year too.

However, what is improving? Will it just keep on increasing forever? The school may not have the responsibility to actively explain this, but we do have the right to know where our money is going. My next step is not to remain hopeless. As Sheila Wilson, an associate vice president for auxiliary operations procurement/purchasing, has been assigned as a chair for this discussion, (after my consecutive reminder!) which will be starting soon. If you would like to work with me or want to just

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