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Stu­dents need to have the option to opt out of the meal plan | Wiki­media

In S.M. Chavey’s article last week defending Bon Appetit and the mandatory meal plan policy, she claims the meal plan requirement is “nec­essary from a financial stand­point” and that it is “an integral part of campus culture.”

I’d like to address her claims in turn. Her first claim, that mandatory meal plans are nec­essary for financial pur­poses, is suspect. Dr. Arnn, in the April 17, 2014 edition of the Col­legian, is quoted as saying “The dining service is not a major source of net revenue to the college,” directly refuting the argument of its financial necessity.

According to data released by the Council for Aid in Edu­cation, Hillsdale College is one of two col­leges nationwide to raise more money in dona­tions than it spends. Hillsdale reg­u­larly runs multi-million dollar budget sur­pluses, including the $5.3 million  surplus this year reported by the Col­legian earlier in Sep­tember. It is doubtful that relaxing the mandatory meal plan restriction would lead to the college’s financial ruin.

Moreover, as Chavey notes, approx­i­mately 10 percent of stu­dents are not required to be on a meal plan, based on such arbi­trary stan­dards as “fifth year seniors, married stu­dents, com­muting stu­dents, stu­dents 24 years or older,” and others. Hillsdale College manages to keep running despite missing out on their meal plan revenue. Why not relax the requirement further?

To start, stu­dents who live off campus are more than capable of feeding them­selves at a dra­mat­i­cally lower cost than through a college meal plan. If they decide an expensive meal plan is worth it to them, so be it. What’s the harm in giving stu­dents the option?

Her second argument, that mandatory meal plans are integral to “campus culture” and “com­munity,” is equally suspect. To start, recall the 10 percent of stu­dents exempt from mandatory meal plans. Is com­munity less integral to their college expe­rience? Is it pos­sible that stu­dents are capable of building a com­munity without expensive, over­priced, mandatory meal plans?

Of course it is. Com­munity is the result of the innu­merable spon­ta­neous inter­ac­tions between stu­dents and faculty alike every day. Whether it’s arguing over pol­itics in the union, getting into shenanigans in the dorms, attending one of the hun­dreds of events orga­nized by student groups throughout the year, or even just talking before class, com­munity would thrive even without a mandatory meal plan.

While Chavey did acknowledge that stu­dents are unhappy, she simply urged them to “stop the com­plaining,” rather than encour­aging a dia­logue between dis­sat­isfied stu­dents, Bon Appetit, and the college admin­is­tration.  Hillsdale College stu­dents are smart enough to realize when they’re getting a raw deal. Com­plaints about Bon Appetit regarding the quality of food, the price, or the man­dated meal plans, are valid. Without com­plaints, there would be no improvement. If dis­sat­isfied stu­dents hadn’t spoken out about Saga years ago, Bon Appetit likely wouldn’t be here today. These com­plaints should be addressed, not shoved beneath a rug under the guise of “com­munity.”
Groe­nendal is a senior studying eco­nomics and math

  • Camus53

    Which is why I always thought the campus needs a good pub with craft brews for the mind and soul and food for the belly and the heart. Oh wait…that’s what the frat houses used to be about. Yes indeed there used to be true free thought, rabid debate and such at Hillsdale. To think there were actually keg parties held inside the student center! What a won­derful free flow of ideas and infor­mation took place at such events. And to think it’s all gone now…replaced by a vapid point of view that Saga food pro­motes the sharing of ideas and conversation…perhaps in the restrooms after eating the meals.

    And if…if in any tiny sense of the word “freedom” of thoughts and actions were at the heart of learning at Hillsdale…tools like Petersen would not say :
    “We actually are prac­ticing what we preach. We’re a private insti­tution and we’re doing what we think is best,”. A slap in the face of all who do love freedom and who used to call Hillsdale an insti­tution of free thought, ideals and action!