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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Meal plan uncertainty concerns students

Published: January 17, 2014
Section: Front Page, News

Over winter break, rumors began to circulate that Brandeis will soon raise the cost of housing and require that every student living on campus have a meal plan. On Dec. 2, the Student Union Senate Dining Committee and Executive Board issued a survey, requesting that students comment about their satisfaction with meal plans. One question in particular began to inflame students, and remains an unresolved problem as students begin the spring semester. The survey questioned: “If meal plans were required for all on campus living (with or without a kitchen), how would that affect your decision to live on campus?”

“If a student is living in housing that comes with a kitchen, then they will want to cook for themselves, and will therefore be buying their own groceries. To make them then pay for a meal plan in addition to that seems unfair, and, to be frank, a bit ridiculous,” said Kyra Borenstein ’15, a student who currently lives in on-campus housing. “I think that if the university does choose to enact this compulsory mean plan, a lot more students would choose to live off campus, because it is much cheaper, which is unfair, because a lot of students would otherwise want to live on campus for a variety of other reasons.”

Ricky Rosen ’14, Student Union president, stated that conversations about revamping meal plans began in November. Issues such as unlimited meal swipes at Usdan and eliminating meal equivalency were brought up at a meeting with representatives from Sodexo, the Student Union and the Brandeis administration. Rosen stated that these issues above were not met with contention among those present at the meeting. “The third proposed component, instituting required meal plans for on-campus students, was certainly the most divisive [in terms of responses],” said Rosen. “A number of the Student Union members in attendance were concerned that instituting required meal plans would make on-campus housing less desirable; however, members of the administration felt that by increasing the quality of the food on campus, this may not be the case.”

Rosen stated, “The Student Union will be working with Sodexo and the administration in the coming months to ensure that the student voice continues to play a role in this crucial process.”

Rosen stated he was not aware the university was considering raising housing costs, and Senior Vice President for Communications Ellen de Graffenreid also responded that she did not have any information on the topic. Graffenreid did state that Brandeis is still early in the evaluation process for these reorganizations, and issues like housing costs and meal plans are typically not finalized until March, when the Board of Trustees meets.

But many students are unhappy with the lack of information they have right now, and seem unwilling to wait until March.

“[The university is] being rather opaque about the whole thing … Possibly the worst part of all of this is, it isn’t even confirmed whether or not the compulsory meal plan will happen, and it will not even be decided until March, but students have to decide whether or not they want to live on campus or not before then,” said Borenstein. “By doing this, the university is forcing its students to make an uninformed decision, which is not something that we, as a student body, should even have to do when the university can do something to prevent that.”

Borenstein states that throughout her career at Brandeis, she has loved living on campus. “I personally would like living on campus because of the sense of community, and the closeness to classes, and the sheer convenience,” she said. “But if I were forced to have a meal plan while I had a kitchen, I would most likely move off campus.”

The Department of Community Living website states that students must check the box on Sage electing on-campus housing by Jan. 31, 2014.