Last Thursday, I made a trip to Twisted Taco in the Student Center for lunch before my next class. When I got to the register, the cashier told me that my meal period had already been used. It was only my sixth time using a meal swipe that week, so I thought it was a mistake.
My meal plan is premium 10, which means I am allowed to use 10 swipes per week during any meal period. But it doesn’t work as liberally as it should.
The university’s switch to Aramark resulted in changes to the meal plan system — one of them being how meal equivalencies work. According to University Housing and Residential Life’s website, meal equivalencies “can be exchanged for meal swipes” at places like Saladworks and Twisted Taco in the Student Center.
Students with a meal plan previously ate wherever they wanted, no matter how many times they ate at the same place. But now there are more restrictions as to where students can use their swipes as meal equivalencies.
Students should be able to use swipes wherever they choose. Limiting where swipes can be used is inconvenient and unfair to the students who pay for these plans.
Only a portion of weekly swipes can be used in places like the Student Center food court, the bottom floor of Morgan Hall and Cosi. And while the exact number varies by plan, it’s around half of the total weekly meals. The remaining swipes are restricted to the Morgan Hall and Johnson and Hardwick dining halls.
Students who have unlimited meals aren’t exempt from the limitations and are only allotted 12 meal equivalencies weekly. That doesn’t sound “unlimited” to me.
“We want to make sure that no matter where you eat, you have the ability to get something,” John Scheers, Aramark’s marketing coordinator of dining services, told The Temple News last March.
But you don’t have the ability to get something if you’ve used up your meal equivalencies. And with the popular new additions to the Student Center, it’s disappointing that swipes are limited.
The new policy expands the unlimited meal plan from strictly J&H cafeteria to the Morgan Hall food court — an upside for students with that unlimited arrangement. But, the limitations still outweigh the perks.
At the rates we are paying — more than $1,000 per semester for most weekly meal plans — the administration shouldn’t be able to push the student body toward utilizing certain dining halls.
Kareem Ali, a junior advertising major, said he doesn’t think there’s a point in purchasing a meal plan under the new restrictions.
“Honestly, if they’re taking half of your meal swipes away from what they’re offering to give you. … What’s the point in paying for meal swipes in that case?” Ali said.
I didn’t know about the restrictions when I chose my meal plan, and I definitely would’ve chosen differently if I had.
Another issue is that there is no “grab and go” feature. Students could previously grab a salad, sandwich or sushi in the Student Center. Now waiting is unavoidable.
“I have roughly 20 minutes to get from my English class to Tuttleman,” said Frank Singer, a freshman actuarial science major. “Sometimes getting a burger takes more than 15 to 20 minutes, then I have to basically run to class and don’t have that time to eat it.”
Students paying for meal swipes should be able to use meal equivalencies as often as desired. Spending half of our swipes in the dining halls can get boring.
Students need variety and freedom to choose. Offering meal plans called “unlimited” or “premium” is misleading. It is pleasing to have access to these well-known food establishments, but reducing our flexibility to use them is a tease.