On Monday, September 25, the 45th Student Senate met for their first meeting of the Fall semester, with guest speaker Auxiliary and Parking Services Director Alexandre da Silva. After an initial presentation by Morgan Schweitzer ’16 on new and updated parliamentary procedure policies, da Silva took the floor to start discussion with senators and the public over recent Sodexo policy changes. Additionally, Shoshana Rubinstein ’16 was approved as the new Senate-Executive Board liaison. Paul Ilori ’17 was approved as Senate representative to the Rules and Elections committee.
Last week, students heard that Sodexo was going to do away with guest meal swipes. A post on the RPI subreddit, which generated 76 upvotes, stated that all meal plans, not just the unlimited meal plans as had previously been announced, would no longer allow students to swipe in guests. The post garnered over 70 comments, many of them negative about the change. It was announced several days later that, due to student concerns, the guest swipe policy would remain the same for this year.
Da Silva started by noting that the meal plan at RPI is more liberal with guests than other colleges, and that they are thinking of implementing a guest program that would revolve around a certain allotment of guest swipes. Even unlimited plans would get these guest passes that could be used for family, friends, faculty, etc. This would give Sodexo more control over how people were using their meal plans, which are, according to Sodexo, non-transferrable.
Noting that the new policy is considered “best practice” by the industry, along with a list of 200 peer institutions, da Silva noted that the discussion would focus on a favorable implementation of these new policies. Lexi Rindone ’15 asked what had prompted the limit on guest swipes. da Silva said that this year, an unlimited plan was introduced, which meant that a student on that plan “could bring in unlimited friends.” In order to prevent this kind of abuse, Sodexo had chosen to shut down guest swipes until a working guest plan could be set into place. While the guest swipes are reinstated for all meal plans, including the unlimited, should students abuse them, that might change.
Rubinstein talked about a constituent concern—that some families were using guest swipes as a family activity. da Silva noted that residence hall rooms or classes are not transferable to family members, either. He talked about working to help students transition into college, and how the meal plans and their requirements were being tailored to help students in as much as possible. After a question by graduate student Kristen Lee asking, he also revealed that the administration and Sodexo were taking into account that only seventy-five percent of swipes were being used. da Silva stated that his main purpose was to work with students towards an allocation of guest swipes that would appeal to the students and Sodexo alike.
Senators and other students present suggested possible solutions, such as students being able to buy guest passes for a certain period of time, having the highest meal plan be 25 instead of 23, or making guest swipes equal to one swipe for the meal plan owner. The question of why sophomores were required to be on the meal plan when some lived further away than upperclassmen was brought up. da Silva said that being on a meal plan helps the success of underclassmen. Keraga noted that meal plan is listed as non-transferable on the website. da Silva said that students couldn’t swipe with someone else’s ID. Once the queue of people waiting to ask questions diminished, Grand Marshal Kyle Keraga ’15 thanked da Silva once again for being available for discussion in an incredibly timely and open way.
The committees then discussed projects for this next year. R&E voted on the handbook for freshmen elections on Tuesday, September 2. The Academic Affairs Committee’s projects include working on advertising student research more, instituting student advisors within majors, and changing the drop deadline. The Student Life Committee’s projects include improving residence halls, instituting an online scheduling system for the Counseling Center, and continuing to work on projects from last year, such as flat-rate taxis and an on-campus pharmacy. The Graduate Council is having a town hall meeting on Wednesday, September 10 at 5 pm in Darrin Communications Center 337, focusing on the additional Graduate Student Activity Fee that was added this year.