Tuesday, August 20, 2019

New meal plan policy will leave Trinity students out in the cold



This Spring semester, all Trinity students received an unexpected email on April 14 titled “New Trinity College Policy Regarding Meal Plans.” With these new meal plans, all students with the exception of those that live off campus and that belong to St. Anthony Hall, Psi Upsilon, and Alpha Delta Phi are required to purchase a meal plan. Freshmen may opt to be on the Freshman plan for $2,220—juniors and sophomores get stuck paying $300 more on the Unlimited or Flex plan, and seniors can opt to pay $1,750 per semester for their meal plans.

These new meal plans are not only taking away such opportunities from students, but are also taking more money out of our pockets. They are consolidating us into one small dining facility as well as presenting an exclusionary atmosphere on campus that is unhealthy for our community.

When one Trinity student emailed the Director of Business Operations here at Trinity, Alan Saur, she asked why these changes were being implemented. Mr. Saur’s response was as follows:

“There are several reasons why this change will go into effect.  One is consistent with a philosophy long held at Trinity (and at many other schools as well.  Most all of the NESCAC schools—those we consider our direct peers—have, for many years, already mandated the policy that Trinity will just now adopt).  The coming together of students for meals is an important component in a student’s college experience, both academically and socially, and these are environments which we hope to continually enhance and improve.  Mealtimes provide opportunities for groups of students from varied and possibly opposing backgrounds, cultures, perspectives, values, experiences, and beliefs to gather together and exchange ideas and viewpoints in an informal atmosphere not found in other types of settings.”

It is true that many other NESCAC schools have required meal plans, however, they are vastly different than the plans that Trinity students are being offered next year. For example, at Tufts University and Bowdoin College, there are certain on-campus housing locations that are exempt from the meal plans. At Bowdoin, these are the College Apartments. These are considered on campus residence halls, similar to the Crescent Townhouses. At Williams, the system requires all those living on campus to purchase a meal plan; however, there is a ten meal per week plan that is $300 cheaper per year than any of the plans we are being offered; not to mention, these other schools have a much wider variety of meal plans than what Trinity is offering starting next year. As a junior, I only have two choices next year, in contrast with juniors at Williams College who have an additional choice. All of those plans give Williams students access into any on-campus dining facility. Bottom line, Mr. Saur’s point to adopting a policy that is already mandated in peer schools is simply not correct because Trinity’s new meal plans are vastly more restrictive.

The second piece Mr. Saur pointed out was that mealtimes provide an opportunity to get to know other students. Meal times are indeed an important part of one’s learning experience, but restricting them to Mather Hall will present a number of problems. Mather is simply not big enough to accommodate the whole student body and is the least preferred dining facility on campus. Demand can simply not be kept up with if all students are dining in Mather. Secondly, Mather does not provide a very intimate and fostering environment to create conversation. Mather is loud, disorganized, and has long waiting times for foods that are undercooked due to demand such as sandwiches, the Umani station, and the omelet bar in the morning. Would it not be more beneficial for students to improve their life skills through sharing a kitchen with eight other people in a Crescent Townhouse where everyone must cook and clean? Sharing an eating space and cooking for oneself and others are vastly more important life skills that learning patience in the omelet bar with five minutes until class.

Also to Mr. Saur’s point about students coming together from varied backgrounds to share meals, it perplexes me that members of the fraternities mentioned prior are not required to participate in the meal plan if there is more to it than simply eating. Are these students somehow not required or expected to meet others in the dining facility because they have their own exclusive club amongst themselves? Cultural houses that are also on campus, such as La Eracra, Umoja House, and the AASA house all have fully functional kitchens, yet the students that live in these houses are required to eat at on-campus dining facilities. This idea that certain fraternities are somehow special or different and are exempt from, according to Mr. Saur, sharing viewpoints and perspectives over meals, treads on some seriously dangerous ground and could be and is being seen as discriminatory against certain groups of students.

This answer provided by Mr. Saur raises some serious questions about the priorities of Trinity College. It did not provide a clear and solid foundation of why these meal plans are being required of us. It is imperative that we show Mr. Saur and the other who were involved in this decision that Trinity students would like a real and honest explanation for the changes made.


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