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Students Start Petition Against Proposed Dining Changes

Heights Editor

Published: Thursday, May 3, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

To say Boston College students are not pleased about some of next year’s changes on campus is putting it somewhat mildly. In response to the recently announced adjustments to the mandatory residential dining plan, students are signing an online petition that calls for a stop “to the unreasonable increases and changes in the mandatory meal plan.”

Next fall, BC Dining Services will be modifying the current “A La Carte” system. The mandatory residential dining plan will be raised to $4,818, compared to this year’s $4,724 cost. Three new mini marts will be added to campus, located in the upper part of Corcoran Commons, in one half of the Chocolate Bar, and near the Stuart Dining Hall on Newton Campus. And, to many students’ dismay, Hillside Cafe will be removed from the list of locations on campus accepting mandatory residential plan funds. To compensate for the changes, BC Dining will move $100 from the mandatory residential plan to dining bucks to give students more discretionary buying power. Next year, students will have $350 to use at the Chocolate Bar, Mini Marts, Hillside Cafe, concessions, and vending machines.

After the announcement was released in Monday’s issue of The Heights, students began voicing their discontent on campus and online. The “BC Dining Services: Stop the Unreasonable Increases and Changes in the Mandatory Mealplan” petition was created on Monday afternoon. The petition calls on students to express their dissatisfaction of the changes.

“By signing this petition, you’re saying that you want a better dining experience,” the petition reads. “You, the student, are demanding changes that benefit YOU, not the pockets of BC Dining. We’re tired of being charged exorbitant prices for food and a meal plan that is mandatory. We’re tired of not having a say in a better dining experience.”

Since its release, the petition has reached more than 800 signatures. Collin Fedor, A&S ’15, was one of the first BC students to sign the petition.

“By no means is the economy favorable, and actions must be done to make ends meet,” Fedor said in an e-mail. “I think most people would agree with that. However, I am against the new changes and thus signed the petition because I do not believe that such changes are a fair way for a business to break even. If real companies do not make enough revenue, they reassess and adjust their business model in an effort to regain those losses. This is what BCDS is attempting to do, but the burden is ultimately felt by students. Rather than cutting costs from the inside by better managing operations, BCDS is simply raising the costs of our mandatory meal plan.”

Helen Wechsler, director of Dining Services, explained the need for the changes in Monday’s article.

As a self-sustaining service, BC Dining Services uses student meal plans to cover their operating cost, rent, facility maintenance, food cost, and labor. In addition, the BC Dining program includes broad hours of operation, uses a liberal “A La Carte” system, supports over a dozen service trips a year with meal plan donations, and pays its employees a living wage as part of the University’s mission of social justice.

About taking Hillside off the mandatory residential plan, Wechsler said, “The overcrowding, therefore significantly diminished customer experience, is the most significant reason we took Hillside off the mandatory residential plan. Our customer counts have grown to just over 4,000 covers a day in a location that was built to service 1,200 per day, and there are simply no expansion opportunities for this concept at this time.”

Students have expressed their dissatisfaction with the changes and the justification.

“Taking Hillside off the main plan restricts us to three principle places on main campus for dinner: Lower, Mac, and Addie’s,” said Alessandra Christiani, CSOM ’15. “There are already long lines at each of these places, and cutting Hillside means that students will now be at those three places more often. It isn’t practical. If they want to cut Hillside from the main plan, they need to provide better alternatives, like making the Rat a more legitimate dining hall and opening it for dinner. Mini marts around campus are not going to help with the dining problem.”

“Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful for the services BCDS provides,” Fellor said. “The opportunities for its full-time employees are something to celebrate, especially at a Jesuit institution. And I always think to myself, ‘the food could be a lot worse.’ But this is not an issue of food quality, it is a matter of fairness. Students have a say as to how their money is spent in nearly all facets of life, their college’s dining hall should allow them to exercise that same right.

Whether it be by allowing different levels of spending or maybe smarter spending, BCDS needs to reassess its own structure in order to break even. They have no right to manipulate students in an effort to make their own ends meet.”

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