By MAX FURIGAY ’19
There is no such thing as a free lunch, but somehow, Chartwells is getting plenty of them. I am not going to whine about the quality of the food or the lack of options for students, because, in my mind, they do a pretty good job catering to us. And the employees are kind, quick and friendly (my personal favorite being, of course, Rashima). But good God, Chartwells really has students over a barrel when it comes to pricing.
Let’s begin with the cheapest meal plan, the Mather 19 Plan. In this plan, the smallest number of meals that most students are required to buy is 19 a week, and it costs about a $150 each week ($2,300 total). I am sure that I’m not the only person on campus who doesn’t eat breakfast; and I am even more certain that most on campus try to avoid Mather in lieu of other dining options on the weekends. So why the heck am I being forced to buy 19 meals, when I generally use about twelve each week?
“But Max,” you might say, “Chartwells lets you spend your unused meals on take-out snacks each week.” And to you, hypothetical Chartwells defender, I’d say that this arrangement takes advantage of the student body at an almost ludicrous degree, made possible only by the pure monopoly power Chartwells enjoys over us. For example, they charge $19 for a case of 24 waters—the same exact Aquafina case that costs $5.47 at the Wal-Mart down the street. The six dollar Gatorades and the $1.50 granola bars aren’t much better. With markups like this, it’s a wonder no one’s sued them under some sort of federal price-fixing law.
And this is all assuming I even bother to spend my leftover meals on their overpriced junk food. Oftentimes, I’m not in the mood to buy another five bags of barbecue flavored Lays chips, so I’ll just let the meals expire. Over the course of the term, if a student were to waste four meals per week (because let’s face it, no way most of you are eating 19 meals a week), this comes out to about $300 of free money for Chartwells — all because we are forced to buy a much more comprehensive plan than we ever would use.
Compounding the problem, if one were to decide to buy a meal plan that provides for some freedom from Mather in the form of fewer meals per week with the Flex Plan, somehow, this actually costs several hundred dollars more than the 19 Traditional plan. That’s right: you’re buying the right to waste less money with unused meals. Win-win for Chartwells, clearly, but a lose-lose for us. It’s a scam wrapped up in the legitimacy of required meal plans, and it shouldn’t be on us to shower Chartwells with free money. Be it high operating costs or large profits for management, Chartwells is using our money with no service provided in return, and this shouldn’t stand.
I understand the logic of requiring meal plans for almost everyone on campus — I really do. To say nothing of community values and encouraging campus cohesion, mandatory meal plans offer a degree of egalitarianism to a community that certainly struggles with it. But our options are far too limited, and being forced to pay for five to ten meals that I’m not eating each week is bogus. The socialist arrangement that we have with Chartwells, by involuntarily propping them up is not economical, it’s not democratic, and anathema to the capitalism that drives America.
I can’t be the only person that loses so much money to Chartwells due to these policies. While the administration is no stranger to fiscal recklessness and passing high operating costs onto us, the student body, it is only through them that we can change the policy. To the administration, I say: for the sake of America, and for all of our countrymen who fought for the sake of freedom, give me a fifteen meal a week plan.