Fed up: campus reacts to meal plan

By on October 21, 2008

By Kara Augustine

Geoff Beebe was aggravated by the new $250 meal plan requirement going into effect next fall at the University of Louisville, enough so that he was motivated to attend a different university.
“I was looking at U of L because it comes highly recommended to me by my family who has attended this school for at least two generations,” Beebe, currently a junior at University of Maryland Baltimore County, said. “It leaves a sour taste in my mouth that there is a mandatory fee in place that I cannot mitigate.”
Beebe is not alone with his negative reaction. Students Kathleen Knight and Jaison Gardner have created a Facebook group entitled “Stop the Mandatory Meal Plan at U of L.” The group has over nearly 1,000 members  by press time, with many wall posts reflecting different perspectives on the issue.
Brendan Logue, a senior communication major, said although he will have graduated by next fall, he fears the meal plan may deter people from coming to U of L.
“I am thinking about all of the people who will have schedules similar to mine,” Logue said. “This is just another added cost that is not really necessary.”
 Junior Pan American studies major Dre Dawson feels the administration may be trying to create better resources for students with the meal plan, but much of the problem is rooted in student feedback and communication.
“I feel like the organization of it was a little faulty because of a generalized assumption of what the students wanted,” Dawson said. “If we can’t come together as students and administration and at least state our opinions and what we want to see, then it is a very big problem.”
Gardner said he and Knight ran into one another on Facebook and tried to brainstorm about possible courses of action regarding the meal plan. They decided to hold a strategy meeting in order to talk to concerned students. At the Oct. 15 meeting, some issues discussed were the effects the meal plan will have on students and the university’s overall communication.
 “As a commuter student, as a person who works, as a person struggling to make ends meet, I know this meal plan hurts people like me,” said Gardner, a sophomore communication major.
Student Government Association President Rudy Spencer said he has heard a diverse set of opinions on the issue, but that many of the negative responses have come from students receiving misinformation. Spencer recently drafted a letter to the student body explaining some of the meal plan’s intricacies.
Spencer also stressed that SGA provided several opportunities for students to acquire information about the meal plan, with U of L receiving student input regarding meal plan changes from as early as 2006. They have used the e-mail server to send surveys to students and handed out 6,000 flyers in order to receive input.
“I think the university and student government did a great job getting the information out,” Spencer said. “However, either the students missed it or student government did a bad job of targeting a particular population.” 
Student Activities Director Tim Moore said that during the first several days of school, tents at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium passed out information and brochures regarding the dining service’s meal plan.
Moore added that he understands the problems this new requirement can create for students, and the dining services appeal process is being reviewed in order to accommodate students for whom the meal plan poses a problem. He said information about the process will be released at the beginning of the spring semester.
“Students should always voice their opinions and share their concerns,” Moore said. “The Dining Services Advisory board has student representation on it that looks at things surrounding food services. I would also encourage students to be active in their student government.”
Though Moore stressed student engagement as vital, Gardner feels communication between both the university and its students will be vital in easing this process.
 “I just want to make it clear that the obligation rests with the students and the university,” Gardner said. “The same way that we demand to be heard by the university, I think that it is important that we demand from other students to be active participants in what is around them.”
-Editor’s Note: Due to The Louisville Cardinal’s print schedule, the forum to be held regarding the meal plan cannot be printed in this week’s issue. However, go to The Cardinal’s Web site at www.louisvillecardinal.com and check out extended coverage of the forum and the meal plan.

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