The week before school started, a Reddit post titled “Save Our Swipes—Hospitality says no more swiping other people in” reported that, “RAs were told this week that people are no longer allowed to swipe other people in on their meal plan,” regardless of whether they were on the meal plan or not. This decision however was reversed several days later, meaning that students can swipe guests in as they have in the past. Many students raised an outcry. Grand Marshal Kyle Keraga ’15 met with Hospitality Services to discuss these concerns. Based on student feedback, Hospitality decided to push back changes, and agreed to work with the Student Senate towards a compromise.
Speaking before the Student Senate during their general body meeting on August 25, Director of Auxiliary, Parking, and Transportation Services Alexandre da Silva said he wanted to emphasize that “No changes have been applied to current meal plan structure for academic year ’14/’15.” da Silva also said that he felt guest swipes as a whole were likely to stay, though controls might be added. “There is a lot of support to retaining guest privilege as part of Rensselaer’s meal plan structure. It brings about camaraderie, it adds value and no less … it supports the Rensselaer residential experience. We may see it evolve but I don’t see it going away in the future. We should see continued support towards guest privilege in the future, however adding reasonable administrative controls.”
When they had heard that guest swipes would no longer be offered, many students were upset. Jocelyn Griser ’16 said that she felt that guest swipes enable underclassmen to get to know upperclassmen better by swiping them in. According to Griser, “the upperclassmen got fed, and then the underclassmen got older friends they could turn to for guidance and advice. It may sound sort of like the upperclassmen were taking advantage of the underclassmen, but I know that I bonded heavily with the upperclassmen I took with me to dinner and whom have remained my good friends even after.” One concern that many students raised was how expensive they felt the meal plans are, and how they felt they should be able to share their swipes if they had extra. Sherin Vaidian ’17 and Victoria Mok ’17 said they felt that Sodexo is too profit-minded and doesn’t focus enough on students’ needs. They cited the lack of trays as an example. Griser also noted that students with meal plans have paid for that number of swipes per week and should be allowed to use them however they please. Griser also noted that underclassmen with special dietary needs, such as Celiac disease, are still forced to buy a meal plan, even though it might not meet their needs.
According to many students, being able to still swipe in friends and family is very valuable to them, especially for the social benefits. Emily Laurilliard ’16 said “I’m glad they’re bringing it back. It’s our meal plan,” and students should be able to choose how to use it. She talked about going to meals with a sports team after practice, with underclassmen swiping in the upperclassmen. Jackson Lyons ’17 echoed Laurilliard’s sentiments about group dinners. He also noted that being able to swipe in friends enables RPI students to swipe in non-RPI students, who might begin to bond with the RPI students, get to see their dining system, and consider transferring.
da Silva said that there were no definite changes planned for the future, but changes may occur. “I do support a healthy dialogue among student leadership, our dining operator, and the Institute Auxiliary organization to review and propose a reasonable guest privilege structure for next academic year.” A new committee, the Hospitality Services Advisory Committee, was created by the Student Senate on Monday and chaired by Joe Venusto ’17. HSAC will collaborate with Hospitality Services to, according to Venusto, “come up with the best possible solution using the resources available.” Keraga said “If … change is inevitable, we’ll be benchmarking peer schools and polling the student body, as well as holding open discussion with RPI students on a number of different media to gather input and give as many people as possible the opportunity to offer suggestions. Ultimately, based on this research, the committee–which is open to anyone to join–will vote on its final recommendation, which we hope will be passed to the Student Senate for a final review.” HSAC will meet with Sodexo during the first week of every month. Keraga said that he personally would like to see meal plans stay flexible, with allowances for guest swipes. Keraga further stresses that “[HSAC] is open to the student body, as is every Senate effort, so now more than ever, while this topic is still on people’s minds, I want to encourage people to join.” Venusto can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org; Keraga can be contacted at email@example.com.
Griser offered this advice for any future discussions regarding guest swipes: “To get a good solution, we need to have students (not just student officials) sit down and discuss with both Sodexo administrators and Hospitality administrators. And I really mean discuss; I do not mean students giving their opinion and then the administrators just saying, ‘Oh, we’ll think about it.’ Whatever solution is found should be an agreement between all parties. And frankly, I think every student, regardless of year, should have the choice of saying no to a meal plan if they don’t like the conditions.”