April 12, 2012
With the upcoming housing lottery, students are not just deciding on their future dormitories, but are also selecting their meal plans for next year. Depending on where they choose to live, rising sophomores have limited choice in their meal plans. Unless they live in what Residential Life terms “an apartment,” sophomores will be forced to pay for the 21 meal plan, whether they use it or not. The 21 meal plan is an obligatory expense does not make sense for many sophomores. Current dining plans, including limited hours and options, should be reevaluated to accommodate the needs of different students.
We understand that it makes sense for all first-year students to be on the 21-meal plan. These students are adjusting to college, making friends, and do not have cars to allow for convenient trips to the grocery store. Since meals with their classmates will be a primary social environment, having everyone on the same meal plan is important to encourage easy adjustment to Hamilton’s social environment. Restrictions on their dining availabilities could influence the ease with which they find a schedule that best suits them and could inhibit adjustment.
Additionally, late night dining options need to be expanded. After 8 pm, there are no healthy options for eating on campus, beyond perhaps the Caesar salad at the Diner. With the exception of the one vending machine that contains “healthy” options in Beineke, there are no options to buy healthy food either. Some 24-hour dining options need to be introduced for students who get out of sports practices, play rehearsals, or other activities late at night. Dining options should reflect the rigorous, hectic schedules of Hamilton students.
Weekend dining options are also restrictive. Before 3 pm, only Commons is open, which features essentially the same fare for breakfast every weekend morning, much of which is not even available until brunch begins at 11. This is particularly absurd given that some of these options, such as the waffle bar, do not require someone to staff them, and could easily be made available to students who arrive before 11. Weekend dining services should treat early-risers and late-sleepers equally.
There are also few options for students in a hurry during the day. Though many students appreciate the new sandwich bars, this system means that students have to wait in an often very long line to get food. Previously, students could grab a quick bite and go if they didn’t have time to wait. There are, however, few other practical options besides sandwiches when students are in a rush. Grab and go lunch bags were once available at the Buff and Blue juice bar before it closed. Bringing back this option, perhaps at the Diner, would help students eat balanced meals at consistent times even on days when they are overly busy.
We appreciate the work of Student Assembly’s Food Committee, and we hope that they will begin to not only consider small-scale improvements to the dining system, as they currently seem to, but also expand their efforts to reviewing the entire system. It has been at least 4 years since students have evaluated the meal plans and so such an evaluation is long overdue. A school-wide survey could provide valuable feedback regarding what changes could really benefit students and allow them to get what they are paying for from the dining halls.