“Please Sir, I Want Some More…”

Nancy Ng

Among the many changes that returning students have discovered on campus this semester are changes made to the meal plan. For some students, however, these changes are more than not being able to swipe their ‘Gate Card twice during one meal period.

A requirement for the residents of Bunche and Creative Arts House (CAH), the College House Dining Plan this year entitles students to five cooked meals a week, the services of their own cook and use of the kitchen’s facilities, but with one major difference: there is no pantry.

“The pantry stored cereals, tea, snacks, frozen dinners – food we’d need for the meals outside of the five dinners we get Monday through Friday,” junior CAH resident Rachel Vining said.

Because the loss of the pantry necessitates residents procuring their additional meals at personal expense, residents of CAH hold legitimate concerns about what this change to the meal plan will hold for them.

“I’m going to be traveling abroad this semester,” Vining said. “I worked and saved over the summer so I could pay for that. I have very little funds left for anything else.”

Fellow junior CAH resident Sun Robinson also expressed anxiety over the unexpected additional financial burden.

“I was not anticipating that I would have to pay for food,” Robinson said, “especially when part of the lump sum I paid before the beginning of the semester already went towards paying for my meal plan.”

The bone of contention shared by these students is that they were not informed of this vital change.

“After we talked with last year’s residents, who met with Residential Education to discuss the meal plan, we were under the impression that it would basically stay the same,” senior CAH resident Bickey Rimal said. “We had to find the empty pantry by ourselves when we moved into the house. I don’t think that anyone intended to tell us. It’s like they were trying to trick us.”

Residents of CAH are also worried that this change will adversely affect the number of applicants interested in living in the house.

“Already this year, we have had half as many applicants as in previous years,” Vining said. “How will it look to prospective residents if we show them the house and there’s no food in it whatsoever?”

For residents, the current situation makes mealtimes challenging.

“I used to live in an apartment,” Rimal said. “One of the reasons that I chose to live in the house was so I would not have to spend time going out to get my every meal. I thought I was all set with the meal plan and the pantry. Quite honestly, if I had known, I wouldn’t have chosen to live here.”

“We reread our living contracts and found out that Sodexho (the dining service that caters to the Colgate Campus) is able to make changes without giving any notice,” Vining said, “so it basically has free reign to do whatever it wants.”

The dining plan costs residents $2,225 per year, providing them with five cooked meals a week for approximately 32 weeks a year. Using those figures, each meal costs nearly $14.

“It doesn’t even cost that much to go out to eat,” Robinson said.

Other challenges of the meal plan have the possibility of leaving residents with empty stomachs.

“Dinner is served promptly at six,” Vining said. “If you’re not here for whatever reason because of your schedule – for example, we have some athletes living here in the house – you might end up not even having the five meals unless you have a really good friend willing to save your share.”

Some CAH residents are under the impression that the change was made by Sodexho to account for previous losses incurred by non-residents eating pantry food.

Assistant Dean Jennifer Adams said that assumption is false; the reason that the students perceive that they are paying the same for much less is simply because of the ever-increasing costs of food.

“If you look at what you paid for your meal plan last year and compare it against what students are paying for the same meal plan this year, you’d see that all the meal plans have gone up in costs,” Adams said. “This is due to the rising costs of food. Everybody is paying more, and the students on the college house meal plan are not immune to this increase.”

In regards to the pantry, Adams said that it was a “co-op” in which students collectively pooled money to buy groceries for the use of its members.

“Last year, it was required that all residents contribute $250 to the co-op,” Adams said. “Each community elected a kitchen manager whose job it was to shop for groceries. Each person might then take turns cooking for the group or they would use the food on an individual basis.”

Because of complaints from students against the mandatory co-op, it was decided that it would not be a feature of the meal plan this year.

“For example, we have received complaints from students who said they paid $250 into the co-op and put, say, a yogurt and banana for breakfast on the grocery list only to find that another student has eaten it,” Adams said. “Another student didn’t go back to the house for lunch and would much rather have used the money she put into the co-op on a meal up the hill at the Coop. Others simply thought that they could make the $250 stretch farther on their own.”

Although the co-op is not required of residents this year, Adams and Associate Dean of Student Affairs Sue Smith say that willing students are welcome to organize their own co-op and design and customize it to fit its member’s needs.

“I think that the community as a whole needs to sit down and decide what they want and what they don’t want. The possibilities are wide open. I don’t think they are aware of this, but we are willing to talk with students and help them realize all the options available to them.”

CAH residents are in the process of forming a committee to show a united front in addressing this issue. Meetings with members of the administration have been scheduled by senior CAH resident Stephanie Wortel.

“We are not asking for something new or to pay less for the corresponding loss of food,” Vining said of their goal. “We just want things to return to the way things were.”