Required meal plans pose issues of accommodation, finances, and independence

By Grace Hogsten

Elm Staff Writer

Upcoming renovations in Western Shore will furnish the apartment-style suites with ovens and stovetops, in addition to the previously provided kitchen fixtures like countertops and cabinets. As part of a plan to improve campus living, Washington College proposed a new policy to provide a less expensive meal plan for Western Shore residents.

According to an email from Interim Dean of Students Greg Krikorian sent to WC students in December, “Washington College will be making substantial upgrades to some independent living environments (Western Shore) to include new stoves & refrigerators, flooring etc. [S]tudents in these on-campus independent living environments will be able to sign up for a reduced meal plan.”

The email also states that fewer off-campus housing exemptions would be offered to rising seniors for the 2023-2024 academic year because of the updates.

However, Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Sarah Feyerherm and Director of Residential Life Amy Sine confirmed that there will not be a reduced meal plan available to Western Shore residents.

“It is my understanding that the renovations were not finalized until it was too late to make changes to the budget,” Student Government Association Dining Services Chair junior Keira Anderson said.

Contrary to the assertion in Krikorian’s email, there will be no reduced dining plan for Western Shore residents in the coming year.

“[W]e do understand that some students living [in Western Shore] in future years may want a reduced meal plan…because they intend to cook more for themselves,” Feyerherm said. “We will be discussing this next year with students, AVI, and others to see if there can be another model in place and to compile ideas.”

However, students do not believe this decision is accommodating to different diet and lifestyle decisions.

“The required meal plans are not representative enough of what suits everyone’s needs,” junior Sarah Cangialosi said. “I wish there was a smaller meal plan available for those who cannot eat everything provided and for those who [would] rather cook for themselves, since everyone has access to a kitchen.”

Currently, all residential students at the College are required to purchase a residential meal plan, the lowest of which provides 150 meal swipes and $600 dining dollars per semester and costs $2,785 per semester.

“As a residential campus we require students to have a meal plan to ensure that our students have access to meals,” Sine said.

However, many students would choose to purchase a less expensive meal plan and make their own food in the residence hall kitchens. Some students outside of Western Shore have access to kitchens in the common areas of their residence halls, including Caroline, Reid, Sassafrass, Chester, and Corsica Hall residents.

“I think we can be treated as adults and make our own food,” senior Brooke Moe said.

Students should not be required to buy meal plans because the option to prepare their own food can help students save money and eat foods that are healthier for them, Moe said.

Requiring dining plans force students to pay for food that may not meet their needs. Students may buy additional food and leave their dining dollars and meal swipes unused for a variety of reasons. Some eat at times when dining services are closed, have dietary restrictions that limit the foods they can eat, or simply prefer foods that they cannot get from the dining hall.

Required meal plans pose a particularly large problem for students with dietary issues, who can only eat a few of the foods provided by dining services.

“Students with dietary restrictions are able to get reduced meal plans through the disability services office,” Sine said. “It is not a guarantee, as AVI, our dining vendor, may be able to accommodate students dietary restrictions.”

Moe, who received a dining plan exemption for dietary restrictions, describes the process of securing dining accommodations as difficult.

“I had to email OAS, Amy Sine, and [AVI]…and I had to get a doctor’s note to…prove my accommodation,” Moe said. “[It was] expensive, because I had to go to the doctor’s to get a doctor’s note and then it wasn’t…a guarantee that I would get a meal plan exemption.”

Some students may technically be accommodated by the dining hall but may struggle to find filling, nutritious, and varied foods that are within their dietary needs.

Considering the issues of dietary restrictions, student finances, and independence, the College should formulate a more flexible system for meal plans. The needs of many students are not met by the current meal plans, and WC can accommodate many of these needs with some changes to the system.

Elm Archive Photo.

Photo Caption: Despite recent renovations in the Western Shore dorms, the College will not be offering reduced meal plans.

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