Students received an email on Aug. 23, laying out the University of Indianapolis’ new dining options and procedures. In this notice, students were informed that they would no longer be given Dining Dollars as a part of their meal plan and that a limit of four swipes per day would take effect by the start of the new academic year.
Hearing that students were struggling with the new system, Indianapolis Student Government partnered with Vice President for Student and Campus Affairs and Dean of Students Kory Vitangeli to host a forum for students to come and discuss their concerns. The forum was held on Sept. 7, and according to junior political science major and Indianapolis Student Government President Jason Marshall, there was a good turnout.
Although ISG was not included in the decision-making process that brought about the new changes, Marshall said, he thought that hosting a forum would help students express their concerns and work toward a compromise that would allow them to get what they are paying for. Prior to the forum, Marshall said the swipe limit could pose problems for students by limiting their options.
“I think it’s going to limit what students do,” he said. “It can have the potential to help—to balance [their swipes] and everything—but in the long-run, I feel like it’s just going to be an extra burden of stress. It was mentioned by a student [in the forum], ‘How much food am I getting today? How many swipes am I going to be using?’ I don’t feel at college—especially since we pay to be able to eat—that we should be concerned or have the fear of, ‘Am I going to be able to eat tonight?’”
Marshall said that he was optimistic that there would be changes made to the new system. He praised the students who showed up for handling the situation with maturity, and he believed that their responsible behavior will help bring about change. Marshall said that ISG is the liaison between the students and the administration. He believes that ISG will be the driving force to get the students’ voices heard on this issue.
Marshall encouraged anyone with concerns to reach out to them either during office hours or through email.
“I think a change is going to come,” Marshall said before any changes were made. “I think it can happen. And we’re just going to keep working until we get it.”
Senior supply chain management major Tyler Coonradt came to the forum with concerns about the new policies. He said that the changes made were unfair to the students.
“You can’t really spring that on someone after everyone had already paid for the product they thought was going to be delivered,” Coonradt said. “Plus, nobody had any time to make changes—if they knew they were only going to have so many swipes a day—to change their meal plan or maybe switch to Crimson Cash.”
Coonradt said that a five- or six- swipe limit might work, but the four-swipe allotment is just not enough.
“Sometimes, you run out of swipes,” he said. “I know for a fact that if you wake up in the morning and get coffee and then you end up getting something else from another place, you’re down to two swipes the rest of the day for meals. Plus they changed all the prices of Streets, Fiesta Grill and Sub Hub. They’re limiting how many swipes you can spend, but they’ve increased the amount that all the food costs. The value of your swipe has gone down, and they’re limiting how many swipes you can use. I know for a fact that grilled cheese is $3 this year and $1 last year. I don’t know if someone can increase the price of something 300 percent.”
In regard to the loss of Dining Dollars, Vitangeli said that they were not included in the cost of the meal plans.
“When Dining Dollars started, it was incentive money that was not part of the cost,” she said. “Students were given Dining Dollars for free. Dining Services wasn’t being paid for them. So because we were spending a lot of money on Dining Dollars, [and] no one was paying for them, we ultimately had to get rid of them. The LLC [Limited Liability Company] decided to get rid of them.”
Vitangeli attributed the new changes to a consultant brought in by the university to assess how UIndy’s dining service systems were doing as compared to other universities’. After the changes were made, a survey was sent out to the students, in addition to the forum, to offer them an opportunity to review the new system. According to Vitangeli, the surveys, emails and conversations about suggested modifications were taken into consideration before any more changes are made.
“My hope is that we can find some type of compromise,” Vitangeli said. “We’re not going to go back to where we were, but let’s … compromise. And I felt good that people felt like they could live with it if we can come up with a compromise…. I appreciate people being willing to come share the feedback and also listen to decisions that are made.”
Vitangeli sent out an email update to students on Sept. 12 thanking them for their feedback and introducing the changes to the meal plans, effective that day.
“The two primary concerns from students and families were the value of a meal swipe and the daily meal allowance….” Vitangeli said in her email. “Effective today, Monday, Sept. 12, 2016 at 9 a.m. the following changes are being made: The value of the meal swipe will be increased to $7.50 for the meal options that accept the meal equivalency swipe: the Perk(s), Hound Express and grill areas. The daily student meal allowance will increase from four meals per day to six meals per day.”
Vitangeli encourages anyone with questions or concerns to contact her or UIndy Dining Services at any time. Another forum about the meal plans will be held at the end of the semester. A date for that forum has not yet been set.