Meal Plan Discussions: Where is the Student Voice?

The ongoing discussions involving the dining halls and meal plan have created quite the buzz already on campus this Fall.  With the coming renovations of Chase round and square, one can only hope that improvements are on the way.  But what does this mean for students that have already become disenchanted with dining services on Wheaton’s campus?  At this point, getting off the meal plan is nearly impossible unless you have what the meal plan committee deems to be a “disability-related request.”  What about the students that are morally against dining services policies, feel that dining services isn’t supplying them with options that they need, students that live in houses and want to prepare their own meals, or just don’t feel well after eating 3 meals a day in the dining halls?  There should be an option for these students as well.

In my attempt to get off the meal plan, I discovered that my options were very narrow. Without going into specific details, I was swiftly denied my request and told that dining services would be happy to sit down and talk about ‘alternative options,’ but in the interim, I would remain on the standard meal plan.  Despite the denial of my request, my experience involving the meal plan brought me to the realization that there is a huge lack of student input when it comes to OUR dining options.  Although the administration says that they plan to alter the meal plan alongside the coming renovations, have they taken student’s thoughts into consideration?  For instance, why is the meal plan so highly enforced when many students are willing and able to cook their own food?  And, why isn’t there a more streamlined process to getting off the meal plan? These are the questions I think we need to begin to ask.

I want to take you back to the discussion surrounding the possible implementation of the tiered housing policy on Wheaton’s campus back in the 2012-2013 school year.  For those of you that were not around back then, the tiered housing policy on campus would have meant that living in a certain type of room on campus would cost more or less than other options; for example, a single costing more than a double instead of a set price for all housing.  The student outcry over the possibility of such a policy was enough to make the administration stop and think about the student body’s true feelings and thoughts on the matter.  As a result of things like open forums and community meeting discussions, the tiered housing policy was taken off the table. This proves that we, as students, can affect the administration. Our voice does matter and when we speak up about something that we feel passionate about, we can make a difference.
So I implore you, fellow students, to start a campus discussion.  Make your voice heard about your thoughts and opinions on the meal plan and dining policies on this campus. Talk about it with your friends, classmates, professors, or even the overfed squirrels (our meal plan obviously affects them too.)