WSA’s Meal Plan Analysis, Revisited

A couple of weeks ago, the Argus printed a story titled “WSA Targets Meal Plan: Unused Meals and Points Estimated at $1 Million,” along with an editorial (cache) about the usefulness of the WSA’s analysis of meal plan usage. Despite the potential for serious reflection on the meal plan and student dissatisfaction with their options, the Argus went the way of criticizing the mathematical limitations of the analysis and defending the current system as the administration’s best possible effort. If someone had told me that Dean Rick Culliton himself wrote the editorial then the Argus’ stance would make a little more sense to me. As it is, I’m going to have to assume that whoever wrote/approved of the article and editorial either did not understand what was presented in the memorandum sent out to members of the administration or simply missed the point.

Wesleying has gotten a copy of the analysis (available here, courtesy of the WSA) and, after a conversation with WSA President Mike Pernick ’10*, I think I have gotten a pretty good handle of  the key points and implications of the analysis. Quite a few of you must agree with the perspective the Argus took, but I am taking this as an opportunity to look at the data from the perspective of a frustrated student.

*Our conversation clarified the analysis itself and what the WSA’s biggest concerns were. Opinions in this post are entirely mine.

Before I go over the analysis itself, I should point out a few things about the numbers and how some of the WSA’s estimates were derived:

1. Anecdotal evidence is not enough to dismiss the numbers. It is partly true, as the Argus states, that “a footnote about the $1,000,000 estimated loss cited the use of  ‘anecdotal’ reports as the basis for the approximation.” Here is the full footnote to which they are referring:

Annualizing the value of unspent meals ($359,448 × two semesters) would yield a total of $718,896.  Specific data on the utilization patterns of points are not available to us. On the basis of anecdotal accounts given to the WSA by students, we can make a very conservative estimate that the average student has at least 55 unused points as they approach the end of each semester. Therefore, we can conclude that students purchase an aggregate of at least $308,000 each year on points they have no intention of using.  Given these conservative estimates, we can project that the total amount of money students spend on meals and points they never use is over $1 million every year.

Nevermind that the Argus makes use of anecdotal evidence to counter this claim in the editorial, the footnote is clear that 55 refers to the average student. The average of 55 implies that many students complained about running out of points at the end of the year and many others complained about having a significant amount left over. In other words, having heard about students who run out of points is not enough evidence to conclude that there are not just as many students who do not run out of points. Student complaints to the WSA are evidence enough of this. It is really disconcerting to me that, in light of student complaints, the Argus editorial worries about how it’s “unfair to expect the administration to be capable of devising a meal plan that would function perfectly for everyone.” I don’t think anybody expects perfection, but complacency with widespread dissatisfaction is unacceptable.

2. The WSA is being impressively transparent. Below is the focal point of the memo:

Meal Plan Class Year Percentage of Meals Used Average # of meals used per student Average # of unused meals per student % of students in class year on plan # of students on plan Aggregate # of unused meals Students’ total cost of unused meals
135 Block 2013 80.40% 109 26 68.40% 510 13,483 $    116,228
165 Block 80.50% 133 32 18.20% 136 4,363 $     37,606
210 Block 69.30% 146 64 11.30% 84 5,427 $     46,784
285 Block 70.70% 201 84 2.10% 16 1,306 $     11,261
105 Block 2012 78.20% 82 23 81.30% 576 13,176 $    113,573
135 Block 80.40% 109 26 10.40% 74 1,948 $     16,794
165 Block 80.50% 133 32 8.30% 59 1,891 $     16,298
210 Block 69.30% 146 64 0.10% 1 46 $          393
285 Block 70.70% 201 84 0.10% 1 59 $          510
Total number of unused meals in one semester: 41,699
Total value of unused meals paid for by freshman and sophomores combined in one semester: $    359,448

As explained in the footnotes, the data in the columns Percentage of Meals Used and % of Students on Plan were provided by Director of Usdan University Center Michelle Myers-Brown. The rest of the numbers are derived from these and other well-known bits of info (e.g., class sizes, average meal costs, etc.) to estimate the total cost of unused meals in each plan. The calculations are explained in the footnotes and make sense to me (though I’m pathetically bad at math). Anyone who is good at this stuff should comment with their impressions of the math done here and how sound it is. The point to be made here is that the writers of this analysis were completely transparent in how their calculations were made and where the numbers came from. Although there is a fair amount of estimation, it is not put forth in such a way as to conceal shortcomings in the analysis. This is especially commendable considering the next point.

3. Really, all the data is erased? The last point that I want to make about the logistics of the analysis is that the reason so much had to be estimated was because of the unavailability of data. Of course, the reason given was that the bookkeeping “system overwrites itself and erases all data each semester” (Footnote #1). I’m not buying it. It really seems that Myers-Brown and the rest of the crew are reluctant to divulge this information. This reluctance should have raised more eyebrows when the story first came out. I can’t be the only who thinks this would be a very stupid way to do business if it were true.

So now that I’ve talked about issues with the process of completing the analysis, I want to go over a few key findings.

Things to take away from the analysis:

1. The biggest source of waste is in the most flexible plans for sophomores and frosh. As you can see in the above chart, the largest chunks of the $359,448 estimated value of unused meals in one semester comes from the 135 Block Plan for frosh and the 105 Block Plan for sophomores. The numbers themselves are unsettling but the larger point here is that this is supposed to be the most flexible plan available for students who are forced to be on a meal plan. The plan clearly isn’t flexible enough because so many meals are going unused. Students who know that they don’t need as many meals and accordingly choose the meal plan with the lowest number of meals really have no choice but to waste their money on meals. A lot of revenue is coming from this inflexibility on the supposedly most flexible end of the meal plan options.

2. You’re still personally better off on a plan with fewer meals. This is a somewhat minor point considering how few people are actually on this plan, but it seems that the largest percentage of unused meals comes from people on the 285 Block Plan.

3. Students, on average, are picking the wrong meal plan for them. From the memo:

As a side-note, for all meal plans in both years, the average student uses fewer meals than the next lowest meal plan. For example, sophomores on the 165 Block Plan only use an average of 133 meals – which is still fewer meals than they would have had if they had chosen the more flexible 135 Block Plan.  This trend of the average student choosing the wrong plan carries through universally for every meal plan option.

This is very useful for anyone forced to buy meals. Based on these averages it makes no sense for there to even be a 285 Block Plan.

4. The entire system is inflexible and does not reflect student needs. The WSA analysis actually did a good job of discussing all the ways in which the system leads to waste and restricts students. One of these is by not allowing points to roll over from one year to the next or be redeemable somehow. You can add points but can’t take them away. A choice that results from this setup is that between never eating off campus or wasting money if you do. Another demonstration of the restrictiveness is sophomores who live in program housing being forced to be on a meal plan like sophomores living in dorms. This limits the program housing experience if they have to eat outside instead of with their housemates. The 4 guest meals is especially ridiculous because after those 4 meals are used up you can’t swipe more than once and spend the meals you paid for on other people.

Final thoughts:

1. Cutting waste =/= losing something else. The Argus reported that, according to Culliton, in “lowering the minimum number of required meals, there would have to be sacrifices to alleviate the added financial burden.” He also apparently went on to suggest that there would be an increase in dining fees and a reduction of services. Explaining away the flaws in the system as being “factored into the budget” does not make the flaws any less detrimental to the student dining experience or less wasteful of our money. It is possible that giving students more flexibility may require rebudgeting and taking money from other sources, but that alone is not a reason against investigating how the meal and points plans can be changed to better fit students’ needs.

2. The WSA represents students and right now they’re doing it well. While the Argus editorial writer wrongly characterized the Meal Plan Analysis as the WSA “simply complaining that the meal plan provides too little or too much food,” it’s clear that a lot of effort went into listening to and presenting a variety of student complaints to the administration. You, editorial writer, may not have anything to complain about, but a lot of people do and I’m very proud of the WSA for trying to do something about it. The first step in getting anything done is making all of our concerns heard.

3. Anyone who eats on campus should be a part of the conversation. I did agree with one thing in the Argus editorial and that was that “if students are truly outraged about issues in the meal plan and desire change, we as a student body must discuss our priorities with the administration.” I was surprised to read in the article that surveys indicated that students are more satisfied with the overall dining program today than compared with Aramark in 2005. I don’t remember taking any survey and would like more clarification about what questions were asked. The “overall dining program” probably includes a lot of stuff about food and dining spaces. I doubt there was a question that asked “Are you OK with overspending on meals and points by $X?”

Because people in the administration read Wesleying (and the comments!) this is as good a chance as any for us to conduct our own survey, Wesleying-style. Here’s the question (answer in the comments):

Are you satisfied with your meal plan and points options?

(Please give class year and meal plan.)

ETA: The WSA will soon be meeting with members of the administration to address the issues raised in the analysis. You can bet the conversation here will become a part of their discussion.

111 thoughts on “WSA’s Meal Plan Analysis, Revisited

  1. anon

    i just want to say (for members of the administration or whatever who may be reading this conversation) that i don’t think this convo is representative of how the general student body feels about the meal situation. maybe others think differently (in which case please correct me!), but i honestly haven’t heard many complaints about it and i don’t feel like it’s on the top of the priority list when it comes to things to work on. wesleyan students have a tendency to complain and dramatize any minor issues, which can be a good thing, but i just don’t think meals are that big of a problem here…

  2. anon

    i just want to say (for members of the administration or whatever who may be reading this conversation) that i don’t think this convo is representative of how the general student body feels about the meal situation. maybe others think differently (in which case please correct me!), but i honestly haven’t heard many complaints about it and i don’t feel like it’s on the top of the priority list when it comes to things to work on. wesleyan students have a tendency to complain and dramatize any minor issues, which can be a good thing, but i just don’t think meals are that big of a problem here…

  3. Another

    I think everyone could agree that at least transparency is needed, whether or not you have an issue with the meal plan. And Bon Appetit needs to be collecting data on student usage of their plans.

    I don’t feel that the campus dining options allows for students skipping ‘meals’ to work. If you have a busy semester and stay in to do work or regularly have classes through lunch, it’s easier to grab something from a cafe or have a TV dinner from WesShop. (The to-go option only works if you hit pre-peak period or you waste time in lines) While people do that to varying degrees, it can mean that at the end of the year you have 35+ meals left with no points and no way to spend the meals.

    I would certainly like there to be a fewer meals, more points option, especially starting freshman year. Or have a partial conversion of meals to points.
    Additionally, since we’re paying a fixed amount, we should be able to transfer some of our own meals to ‘guest’ if needed.

    As for wastage being accounted into the meals to create better dining service, I want to know how much extra is being calculated in and how much is necessary. I’m not expecting them to run at a loss or just break even but if it is possible to create a system where we spend less at little cost to dining quality and Bon Appetit, we should investigate it.

  4. Another

    I think everyone could agree that at least transparency is needed, whether or not you have an issue with the meal plan. And Bon Appetit needs to be collecting data on student usage of their plans.

    I don’t feel that the campus dining options allows for students skipping ‘meals’ to work. If you have a busy semester and stay in to do work or regularly have classes through lunch, it’s easier to grab something from a cafe or have a TV dinner from WesShop. (The to-go option only works if you hit pre-peak period or you waste time in lines) While people do that to varying degrees, it can mean that at the end of the year you have 35+ meals left with no points and no way to spend the meals.

    I would certainly like there to be a fewer meals, more points option, especially starting freshman year. Or have a partial conversion of meals to points.
    Additionally, since we’re paying a fixed amount, we should be able to transfer some of our own meals to ‘guest’ if needed.

    As for wastage being accounted into the meals to create better dining service, I want to know how much extra is being calculated in and how much is necessary. I’m not expecting them to run at a loss or just break even but if it is possible to create a system where we spend less at little cost to dining quality and Bon Appetit, we should investigate it.

  5. 2013

    Please lets go over some statistic. If the “average” student has 20 meals and 50 points left over. The students who use the exact right amount of meals and points to not line up in the middle of the bell-curve, they end up off to the side of the center! Its not that the current meal plans only work for some, but clearly it doesn’t work for the “average” student based on the data. This means if you take a random student walking around on campus, it is likely that he has about 20 meals and 50 points left over at the end of the semester. That is what AVERAGE means. Ask that student if they think it good or even okay that that much is left over (lets say each meal is $8 and a point is $1, a conservative estimate to be sure, thats $200 of theirs disappeared) and I bet they will tell you they are dissatisfied. If this is the case for the “average” student, I think it is clear that it is a legitimate concern and a serious problem that should be addressed. Lets have some change!

  6. 2013

    Please lets go over some statistic. If the “average” student has 20 meals and 50 points left over. The students who use the exact right amount of meals and points to not line up in the middle of the bell-curve, they end up off to the side of the center! Its not that the current meal plans only work for some, but clearly it doesn’t work for the “average” student based on the data. This means if you take a random student walking around on campus, it is likely that he has about 20 meals and 50 points left over at the end of the semester. That is what AVERAGE means. Ask that student if they think it good or even okay that that much is left over (lets say each meal is $8 and a point is $1, a conservative estimate to be sure, thats $200 of theirs disappeared) and I bet they will tell you they are dissatisfied. If this is the case for the “average” student, I think it is clear that it is a legitimate concern and a serious problem that should be addressed. Lets have some change!

  7. response

    @16 – I dont think I could name 10 places were we can use meals or points, let alone a dozen. Also, we are not a school of 3000+, but of 2800. The graduate student do not use our meal plan. Besides, out of the 2800, how many of the seniors and juniors actually stay on a plan with meals and not just point? This means they don’t really need to be factored in to how many need to be fed at Usdan, Summerfields, etc. Obviously, there is something fundamentally wrong.

    @17 – just because we have SOME option, doesn’t mean everything is great and we should stick to the status quo. Why can’t we continue to improve the system instead of just being contented with the way it is? Also, I don’t think that having leftover meals and points is a sign of under-eating; on the contrary, I’d say it is quite the opposite. If those students are buying food responsibly at WesShop or grocery stores and cooking for themselves that is actually a much healthier option. And some students enjoy eating off campus on occasion…

  8. response

    @16 – I dont think I could name 10 places were we can use meals or points, let alone a dozen. Also, we are not a school of 3000+, but of 2800. The graduate student do not use our meal plan. Besides, out of the 2800, how many of the seniors and juniors actually stay on a plan with meals and not just point? This means they don’t really need to be factored in to how many need to be fed at Usdan, Summerfields, etc. Obviously, there is something fundamentally wrong.

    @17 – just because we have SOME option, doesn’t mean everything is great and we should stick to the status quo. Why can’t we continue to improve the system instead of just being contented with the way it is? Also, I don’t think that having leftover meals and points is a sign of under-eating; on the contrary, I’d say it is quite the opposite. If those students are buying food responsibly at WesShop or grocery stores and cooking for themselves that is actually a much healthier option. And some students enjoy eating off campus on occasion…

  9. 2013, 285 meal plan

    Yes the school offers weekday breakfasts you schmuck. And for meals to not roll over makes me feel entitled to take everything humanly possible (shit from pi, summerfields, eggs, candy, whatever i can get) from those thieves. Long live the resistance.

  10. 2013, 285 meal plan

    Yes the school offers weekday breakfasts you schmuck. And for meals to not roll over makes me feel entitled to take everything humanly possible (shit from pi, summerfields, eggs, candy, whatever i can get) from those thieves. Long live the resistance.

  11. student

    I think that the Oberlin system sounds really interesting and would be good in not only reducing costs but also making student’s more appreciative of the work that goes into the food we often take for granted.
    I don’t fully understand though why we do not have the option to go off the meal plan after freshman or sophomore year? Many other schools have this incorporated into the system. It is true that this would affect the campus dining experience heavily and take a lot of money away from it, however, perhaps that is a sign that there is currently too much money going into providing food on campus. Students opting out of the meal plan would allow them to save money by getting food at grocery stores, while on a day to day basis they would still be able buy food at Pi Cafe, WesShop, or get an occasional meal at Usdan. If this is not the case then it just means that prices on campus are not competitive or the food is not good enough and something is wrong. Maybe the best option for the future is to outsource our campus dining experience. Rather than allowing Bon Appetit to monopolize it, let all sorts of restaurants onto campus – fast food, healthy food, vegan options, etc. This would allow for more competitive prices, better food, and more options for students. Usdan could still be a central meeting place for meals but serve as a food court instead.
    I for one had 140 points left over last semester and 60 meals (but that was because I worked at Usdan). I would much prefer to budget my own money for food expenses. At the very least, we should be able to get back the “worth” of unused meals and points. Its great if some people finish off all of theirs, but for those who didn’t its not fair to pay for such an excess, especially at those prices.

  12. student

    I think that the Oberlin system sounds really interesting and would be good in not only reducing costs but also making student’s more appreciative of the work that goes into the food we often take for granted.
    I don’t fully understand though why we do not have the option to go off the meal plan after freshman or sophomore year? Many other schools have this incorporated into the system. It is true that this would affect the campus dining experience heavily and take a lot of money away from it, however, perhaps that is a sign that there is currently too much money going into providing food on campus. Students opting out of the meal plan would allow them to save money by getting food at grocery stores, while on a day to day basis they would still be able buy food at Pi Cafe, WesShop, or get an occasional meal at Usdan. If this is not the case then it just means that prices on campus are not competitive or the food is not good enough and something is wrong. Maybe the best option for the future is to outsource our campus dining experience. Rather than allowing Bon Appetit to monopolize it, let all sorts of restaurants onto campus – fast food, healthy food, vegan options, etc. This would allow for more competitive prices, better food, and more options for students. Usdan could still be a central meeting place for meals but serve as a food court instead.
    I for one had 140 points left over last semester and 60 meals (but that was because I worked at Usdan). I would much prefer to budget my own money for food expenses. At the very least, we should be able to get back the “worth” of unused meals and points. Its great if some people finish off all of theirs, but for those who didn’t its not fair to pay for such an excess, especially at those prices.

  13. crash

    @15 lost editorial link is found! and just in case…

    “Editorial: Let’s Consider These Meal Plan Numbers

    Many of our staff members were surprised by the findings presented in our article about meal plan usage. While the WSA calculated that, on average, students have at least 55 points remaining at the end of each semester, we would bet that every student on campus has overheard complaints about running out of points. The fact that such a disparity exists between meal plan usage statistics and student testimony indicates that the meal plan situation is more complex than most people make it out to be.

    The administration is accountable for creating a meal plan that overcharges students for meals that they don’t need. However, while this concern is valid—according to the article on page one, on average each student has 20 meals leftover at the end of each semester—it is unfair to expect the administration to be capable of devising a meal plan that would function perfectly for everyone.

    We could easily discuss how Weshop’s products are overpriced or how it is unjust that freshman and sophomores are forced to purchase too many meals.

    We could speculate on why the meal plan is the way it is: whether the current meal plan structure was guided by lofty ideas about “progressive independence” and fostering community among underclassmen, or merely driven by underlying financial issues.

    Since, however, it is unfair to generalize about the University’s eating habits, it is difficult to articulate what exactly these concerns are and what the solutions would be. In addition, if revisions were made to the meal plan system, either funding would be cut from dining services directly or from other areas of the University budget.

    Simply complaining that the meal plan provides too little or too much food will not solve anything. If students are truly outraged about issues in the meal plan and desire change, we as a student body must discuss our priorities with the administration, and realize that the money for meal plan reform must come from somewhere.”

  14. crash

    @15 lost editorial link is found! and just in case…

    “Editorial: Let’s Consider These Meal Plan Numbers

    Many of our staff members were surprised by the findings presented in our article about meal plan usage. While the WSA calculated that, on average, students have at least 55 points remaining at the end of each semester, we would bet that every student on campus has overheard complaints about running out of points. The fact that such a disparity exists between meal plan usage statistics and student testimony indicates that the meal plan situation is more complex than most people make it out to be.

    The administration is accountable for creating a meal plan that overcharges students for meals that they don’t need. However, while this concern is valid—according to the article on page one, on average each student has 20 meals leftover at the end of each semester—it is unfair to expect the administration to be capable of devising a meal plan that would function perfectly for everyone.

    We could easily discuss how Weshop’s products are overpriced or how it is unjust that freshman and sophomores are forced to purchase too many meals.

    We could speculate on why the meal plan is the way it is: whether the current meal plan structure was guided by lofty ideas about “progressive independence” and fostering community among underclassmen, or merely driven by underlying financial issues.

    Since, however, it is unfair to generalize about the University’s eating habits, it is difficult to articulate what exactly these concerns are and what the solutions would be. In addition, if revisions were made to the meal plan system, either funding would be cut from dining services directly or from other areas of the University budget.

    Simply complaining that the meal plan provides too little or too much food will not solve anything. If students are truly outraged about issues in the meal plan and desire change, we as a student body must discuss our priorities with the administration, and realize that the money for meal plan reform must come from somewhere.”

  15. anon

    I think part of the problem is the student body’s wildly differing eating habits. Some, like myself, always seem to run out of points and meals and would love a meal plan like Bates’ where one can go in and out of dining halls as many times as they would like. Others are somehow left with tons of meals or points, a fact that absolutely astounds me. Perhaps we need a free market where people can sell points for 70 cents on the dollar or something along those lines (the same could work for meals). That way point users like me can cheaply re-up and those with left over points can get some money back.

    Also, maybe as someone who needs a lot of food I am biased, but the number of leftover meals and points some people have worries me. I think a lot of people on this campus don’t eat enough and as one poster wrote the meal plan discourages breakfast and other healthy eating habits. I think undereating is a problem that deserves serious discussion at wesleyan but as far as I can tell there is little awareness and concern for eating disorders on this campus.

  16. anon

    I think part of the problem is the student body’s wildly differing eating habits. Some, like myself, always seem to run out of points and meals and would love a meal plan like Bates’ where one can go in and out of dining halls as many times as they would like. Others are somehow left with tons of meals or points, a fact that absolutely astounds me. Perhaps we need a free market where people can sell points for 70 cents on the dollar or something along those lines (the same could work for meals). That way point users like me can cheaply re-up and those with left over points can get some money back.

    Also, maybe as someone who needs a lot of food I am biased, but the number of leftover meals and points some people have worries me. I think a lot of people on this campus don’t eat enough and as one poster wrote the meal plan discourages breakfast and other healthy eating habits. I think undereating is a problem that deserves serious discussion at wesleyan but as far as I can tell there is little awareness and concern for eating disorders on this campus.

  17. anon

    Does everyone fail to realize the true flexibility that we have. Points/meals can be used at about a dozen locations around campus. What more could you want. Look at most of our competitors, and schools of our size and we have it pretty well (Variety and quality). There are hidden prices people are not considering here as well, you are not just paying for a plate of food. I’d agree with recommendations c, e, f only in the WSA document. It’s not as if people don’t know what their meal plan is. One has ample time to plan his eating arrangements throughout the semester, and there is no reasonable and better system than the one offered. Of course feeding 3000+ people requires compromise, but we should all feel thankful for what we actually do have.

  18. anon

    Does everyone fail to realize the true flexibility that we have. Points/meals can be used at about a dozen locations around campus. What more could you want. Look at most of our competitors, and schools of our size and we have it pretty well (Variety and quality). There are hidden prices people are not considering here as well, you are not just paying for a plate of food. I’d agree with recommendations c, e, f only in the WSA document. It’s not as if people don’t know what their meal plan is. One has ample time to plan his eating arrangements throughout the semester, and there is no reasonable and better system than the one offered. Of course feeding 3000+ people requires compromise, but we should all feel thankful for what we actually do have.

  19. abc

    As a student with no affiliation to the Argus or the Wesleying, I feel I have the need to express my concern over the Argus’s editorial piece on Bon Appetit.

    1. If you’ve actually read the piece, it’s one of the most disappointing article because it was extremely biased.

    2. The link is now broken. What does this mean?

    3. What does this say about the content of our so called, “independent” school newspaper?

  20. abc

    As a student with no affiliation to the Argus or the Wesleying, I feel I have the need to express my concern over the Argus’s editorial piece on Bon Appetit.

    1. If you’ve actually read the piece, it’s one of the most disappointing article because it was extremely biased.

    2. The link is now broken. What does this mean?

    3. What does this say about the content of our so called, “independent” school newspaper?

  21. 2011

    Sam-
    If looked at the usage of meals and points, I would guess it would end up on a bell curve. Some people use too many, some people don’t use enough. A few people just happen to eat the exact right number of meals/points so they line up in the middle of the bell curve. The meal plan is right for SOME people, it just is wrong for the vast majority who don’t happen to conform to this median.

    We should have a low-meal option, so folks who only wanna go to 2-3 meals at Usdan a week and spend the rest on points can do that without wasting 100s of dollars.

  22. 2011

    Sam-
    If looked at the usage of meals and points, I would guess it would end up on a bell curve. Some people use too many, some people don’t use enough. A few people just happen to eat the exact right number of meals/points so they line up in the middle of the bell curve. The meal plan is right for SOME people, it just is wrong for the vast majority who don’t happen to conform to this median.

    We should have a low-meal option, so folks who only wanna go to 2-3 meals at Usdan a week and spend the rest on points can do that without wasting 100s of dollars.

  23. Sam

    I’m apparently the only person who’s really ever had an issue with meal plans. My first two years here I had just about the perfect number of meals/points to get me through all of the semesters and didn’t waste anything. I was on the plans that gave me the most points both years.

    This year I’m on all points and still have no issues.

  24. Sam

    I’m apparently the only person who’s really ever had an issue with meal plans. My first two years here I had just about the perfect number of meals/points to get me through all of the semesters and didn’t waste anything. I was on the plans that gave me the most points both years.

    This year I’m on all points and still have no issues.

  25. Noa

    My first thought on all this was: However Bon Appetit makes their profit, it was all factored into the contract bid, so this doesn’t really matter (as Dean Rick implied). My second thought is: screw that, it’s clearer to have transparent, appropriate plan options and if they end up cheaper and BA need to charge us a management fee on top of that, fine.

  26. 2012

    I think an important question (and one that is at the center of Bon Appetit’s financial argument) is how money is dispensed to the dining services. When we pay for the meal plan (what ever you choose) at the beginning of the semester, is that lump sum immediately delivered to Bon Appetit, who then regulates your expenditure to make sure that you do not over-profit? Or is that sum of money instead controlled by the University, and dispensed to dining services accordingly as you swipe meals and points (meals are also attached to monetary values, I do believe)? If it is indeed the latter (which seems by far the logical methodology), then how can the presence of excess meals account for necessary budgetary expenses? Would that not suggest that Bon Appetit operates on a normal system customer-generated income, only with the university serving as a middle-man for each students’ food money?

    If it is, in fact, the former, then: 1. Shouldn’t the administration/students be concerned with the un-checked and wholly uncapitalistic model of monetary distribution that is manifested in campus dining services? (if the Soviet Union taught us one thing about centralization of funds, it’s… oh, never mind.) And 2! It is oft-suggested that an additional so-called “theft contingency expense” (you know what I mean) is bundled/charged in every one of our dining plans, to account for the more light-handed/hungry members of our campus. Is this true? On one hand, it makes sense–we steal stuff. Especially when we can eat it! But on the other had, it demonstrates a further perception of our meal-plan money as somehow disconnected from ACTUAL money—the conception that there should or can somehow be an “operational budget” filter, acting as the discretionary in the process of translating our real-world money into Wesleyan Dining money (this being in accordance with the also-unverified statistic that each one of our “points” is actually valued at something like $1.25 (real-world money)).

    This brings me to what might actually be my main point: while I think that we all recognize the need for a certain amount of control in the structure of dining services and the distribution of dining money (the inexorable freshman/sophomore meal-requirement, for instance, not only ensures a comfortable two-year transition to feeding yourself, but ensures the continued existence of meal-taking places like Usdan, which, though we may frequent them less and less over the passing years, we all appreciate having around), the conceptual divorcement of our meal plan from real-world money (though all the while, however contradictorily, there remain dollar-amounts attached to our meal options)—or perhaps it is the consideration of campus dining as a university institution like any other, rather than a patronage-driven commodity business/service—creates a disjoint the student and administration understandings of how meal-plan money is spent.

    From the perspective of a university institution (which the dining services undoubtedly are, even if operated by an outside company), it makes perfect sense that a certain portion of student funds should go to its operation, as is the same with any other aspect of the university. But in this apparently convoluted situation, that operational fund should be clearly defined, and perceptibly separate from food-money. However, (and this is exceptionally of merit considering that dining services ARE operated by an outside, for-profit company (Bon Appetit) that exists in and plays by the rules of the same global economic soup that everyone knows and loves), it makes perfect sense that the service and commodity trade operated by Bon Appetit should bear a tangible relation to the real-world currency that we deposit into it (in this case, think of the meal plan as a trust fund, only the University is apparently a bad trustee and is allowing us to lose money on unredeemed meals).

    Whether this means allowing unredeemed meals to become points at some late-semseter period, to roll-over to the next semester as meals or points, or whatever—that I do not know, but it seems that it should be simple enough to devise a functioning plan that restores fidelity to real-world value to all those meal and point swipes. What I do know, however, is that to allow Bon Appetit to operate in a private economic milieu—cached from the competitive rigors of glorious free market capitalism (let’s call it the “Wesleyan bubble,” shall we?) is not only economically inequitable and “opaque”, but is the very embodiment of institutionally-bred communism that we’ve been seeing sprout up at radical leftist colleges all over the country—one’s that wear their red allegiance on their sleeve. Give it another couple of years and you’ll have these places pushing for the reformation of the USSR.

    Watch out for the Russians. They might steal our dining.

  27. 2012

    I think an important question (and one that is at the center of Bon Appetit’s financial argument) is how money is dispensed to the dining services. When we pay for the meal plan (what ever you choose) at the beginning of the semester, is that lump sum immediately delivered to Bon Appetit, who then regulates your expenditure to make sure that you do not over-profit? Or is that sum of money instead controlled by the University, and dispensed to dining services accordingly as you swipe meals and points (meals are also attached to monetary values, I do believe)? If it is indeed the latter (which seems by far the logical methodology), then how can the presence of excess meals account for necessary budgetary expenses? Would that not suggest that Bon Appetit operates on a normal system customer-generated income, only with the university serving as a middle-man for each students’ food money?

    If it is, in fact, the former, then: 1. Shouldn’t the administration/students be concerned with the un-checked and wholly uncapitalistic model of monetary distribution that is manifested in campus dining services? (if the Soviet Union taught us one thing about centralization of funds, it’s… oh, never mind.) And 2! It is oft-suggested that an additional so-called “theft contingency expense” (you know what I mean) is bundled/charged in every one of our dining plans, to account for the more light-handed/hungry members of our campus. Is this true? On one hand, it makes sense–we steal stuff. Especially when we can eat it! But on the other had, it demonstrates a further perception of our meal-plan money as somehow disconnected from ACTUAL money—the conception that there should or can somehow be an “operational budget” filter, acting as the discretionary in the process of translating our real-world money into Wesleyan Dining money (this being in accordance with the also-unverified statistic that each one of our “points” is actually valued at something like $1.25 (real-world money)).

    This brings me to what might actually be my main point: while I think that we all recognize the need for a certain amount of control in the structure of dining services and the distribution of dining money (the inexorable freshman/sophomore meal-requirement, for instance, not only ensures a comfortable two-year transition to feeding yourself, but ensures the continued existence of meal-taking places like Usdan, which, though we may frequent them less and less over the passing years, we all appreciate having around), the conceptual divorcement of our meal plan from real-world money (though all the while, however contradictorily, there remain dollar-amounts attached to our meal options)—or perhaps it is the consideration of campus dining as a university institution like any other, rather than a patronage-driven commodity business/service—creates a disjoint the student and administration understandings of how meal-plan money is spent.

    From the perspective of a university institution (which the dining services undoubtedly are, even if operated by an outside company), it makes perfect sense that a certain portion of student funds should go to its operation, as is the same with any other aspect of the university. But in this apparently convoluted situation, that operational fund should be clearly defined, and perceptibly separate from food-money. However, (and this is exceptionally of merit considering that dining services ARE operated by an outside, for-profit company (Bon Appetit) that exists in and plays by the rules of the same global economic soup that everyone knows and loves), it makes perfect sense that the service and commodity trade operated by Bon Appetit should bear a tangible relation to the real-world currency that we deposit into it (in this case, think of the meal plan as a trust fund, only the University is apparently a bad trustee and is allowing us to lose money on unredeemed meals).

    Whether this means allowing unredeemed meals to become points at some late-semseter period, to roll-over to the next semester as meals or points, or whatever—that I do not know, but it seems that it should be simple enough to devise a functioning plan that restores fidelity to real-world value to all those meal and point swipes. What I do know, however, is that to allow Bon Appetit to operate in a private economic milieu—cached from the competitive rigors of glorious free market capitalism (let’s call it the “Wesleyan bubble,” shall we?) is not only economically inequitable and “opaque”, but is the very embodiment of institutionally-bred communism that we’ve been seeing sprout up at radical leftist colleges all over the country—one’s that wear their red allegiance on their sleeve. Give it another couple of years and you’ll have these places pushing for the reformation of the USSR.

    Watch out for the Russians. They might steal our dining.

  28. 2010

    I HATED when I had meals left over, but as a senior, all points isn’t much better. Maybe once a week or so, I would eat off campus with friends or whatnot … as a result, I had over 200 points left over at the end of last year. So what did I do? I went to weshop and bought a ton of junk food which I gave away to a friend staying over the summer. It was nice to help a friend, but I still wasted points that I paid good money for. We should change it so people can buy a “high points” and a “low points” option, with the low points costing a lot less.

  29. 2010

    I HATED when I had meals left over, but as a senior, all points isn’t much better. Maybe once a week or so, I would eat off campus with friends or whatnot … as a result, I had over 200 points left over at the end of last year. So what did I do? I went to weshop and bought a ton of junk food which I gave away to a friend staying over the summer. It was nice to help a friend, but I still wasted points that I paid good money for. We should change it so people can buy a “high points” and a “low points” option, with the low points costing a lot less.

  30. 2012 Swimming in Meals

    As a program house-livin’, kitchen-dwellin’ sophomore I had over 60 meals leftover last semester. I try to get my money’s worth by doing some of my grocery shopping at Usdan instead of WesHop but that’s risky business and I (mis padres) still get short-shrifted. I want more points. If Usdan has to streamline the number of “cafes” at the “marketplace” while improving quality, I’d be down. But mostly I just want more points.

  31. 2012 Swimming in Meals

    As a program house-livin’, kitchen-dwellin’ sophomore I had over 60 meals leftover last semester. I try to get my money’s worth by doing some of my grocery shopping at Usdan instead of WesHop but that’s risky business and I (mis padres) still get short-shrifted. I want more points. If Usdan has to streamline the number of “cafes” at the “marketplace” while improving quality, I’d be down. But mostly I just want more points.

  32. anon

    i also always have tons of meals left over, but that’s the way things go and the fact that not everyone will use all their meals allows the system to work, and allows usdan to be so well-stocked, as the argus article explained. i like things the way they are.

  33. anon

    i also always have tons of meals left over, but that’s the way things go and the fact that not everyone will use all their meals allows the system to work, and allows usdan to be so well-stocked, as the argus article explained. i like things the way they are.

  34. Girl '11

    i’m fine with my all points meal plan this year. but freshman and sophomore years i had TONS of meals left over and i burned through all my points. It was especially frustrating when i lived in program housing last year as a sophomore and was forced to go to usdan instead of eating with housemates.

  35. Girl '11

    i’m fine with my all points meal plan this year. but freshman and sophomore years i had TONS of meals left over and i burned through all my points. It was especially frustrating when i lived in program housing last year as a sophomore and was forced to go to usdan instead of eating with housemates.

  36. Zach

    Completely agree with #4. I hate being forced to pay for way more meals than I want or need, even on the 135 plan.

  37. Girl '12

    I always have wayyy too many meals leftover and generally not enough points. I’d be a lot happier if I could pick a meal plan with all or almost all points instead of having the school take my money and give me nothing in return.

  38. Girl '12

    I always have wayyy too many meals leftover and generally not enough points. I’d be a lot happier if I could pick a meal plan with all or almost all points instead of having the school take my money and give me nothing in return.

  39. Faculty Lurker

    Dear Whatshername:

    Ok, if you’ve solicited comments from different constituencies, I’ll bite.

    1. With regard to price, I think that as long as you pay the workers a decent wage, the cost of prepared meals is going to be much higher than you’d like. The only way to reduce that and still have dining halls is to go cooperative. For an example, where coops have survived in parallel to traditional dining service, see Oberlin College’s coop system, at http://osca.wilder.oberlin.edu/student (Download the 2 page brochure. 6 hrs per week per student = 1/2 the board bill)

    2. From a faculty point of view, I once heard that the Wesleyan meal plan either discourages or does not even provide weekday breakfasts. Is this true, and if so, how does it fit into the mission of the institution, especially in Div III where so many courses are early morning?

  40. Faculty Lurker

    Dear Whatshername:

    Ok, if you’ve solicited comments from different constituencies, I’ll bite.

    1. With regard to price, I think that as long as you pay the workers a decent wage, the cost of prepared meals is going to be much higher than you’d like. The only way to reduce that and still have dining halls is to go cooperative. For an example, where coops have survived in parallel to traditional dining service, see Oberlin College’s coop system, at http://osca.wilder.oberlin.edu/student (Download the 2 page brochure. 6 hrs per week per student = 1/2 the board bill)

    2. From a faculty point of view, I once heard that the Wesleyan meal plan either discourages or does not even provide weekday breakfasts. Is this true, and if so, how does it fit into the mission of the institution, especially in Div III where so many courses are early morning?

Comments are closed.