Letter To The Editor

Working to bring back create-your-own meal plan

By Chevy Chen June 15, 2019

Meal plans at a university form one of the foundations of the ability for a student to learn. At Rensselaer, meal plans receive criticism for the pricing and quality of food. This past semester, when sophomores were selecting housing for the 2019–2020 academic year, some noticed that they were no longer able to choose the create-your-own meal plan. It was the cheapest option, and the only one that allowed students to convert their meal swipes to Flex Dollars through a conversion rate of $8.80 per swipe. For the sophomores that already chose this meal plan, they were notified that they were not supposed to have been given this option and were instructed to choose a different plan in an email on June 5 sent from the Office of Residence Life.

The create-your-own meal plan is sometimes the only meal plan a student can afford, which is an unfortunate reality for many students. Students come to RPI for a world-class education, and creating financial barriers for these students by eliminating the cheapest meal plan option is essentially discriminatory to these students who are just trying to get an education. It is also a great option for students that don't see themselves utilizing the dining halls as often, and would prefer to dine more casually at on-campus vendors in areas like the Rathskeller, Panera, and Moe's, as well as purchase items through Father's Marketplace. It is an especially convenient option for students who live in RAHPs, Stackwyck, and Colonie who don't live in the immediate vicinity of a dining hall, and would usually prefer to eat in their dorms, utilizing their dorm kitchens and cooking for themselves or buying things from the Union on their way back to their room from class.

The majority of the sophomore class does not know why the create-your-own meal plan was removed. In an internal email to the Hospitality Services Advisory Committee, HSAC Chairperson Rhea Banerjee said:

“For some background, this meal plan was first introduced in 2016 as a compensation for the increasing incoming freshman class size. The dining halls were unable to compensate for the large numbers of students coming in during peak dining hours but now with Commons and Sage renovations, there will be 240 additional seats in Sage and 260 additional seats in Commons. Giving sophomores the create-your-own meal plan moved pressure from the dining halls onto retail dining, causing new issues in the Rathskeller. While many people, especially sophomores, might not like this, the create-your-own meal plan will not be coming back now or in the foreseen future. RPI admin is certain that once the newly renovated Commons is open, everyone will be able to enjoy using their meal swipes!”

I hope that by highlighting this issue, more members of the campus community will become involved, and join the dialogue that I’ve started in hopes of bringing this meal plan back. I’m working to schedule meetings with Sodexo and Student Living and Learning to learn more about the situation, and see if we can reach a solution, if not for our class, for future classes to come.

Chevy Chen

President of the Class of 2022