three people have signed a petition regarding the changes in meal plans. The petition raised many concerns about how the cafeteria currently operates and about the All-Access meal plan that all students living in dorms will be required to purchase next year. The University News spoke with vice president of enrollment and student affairs Dr. John Plotts and director of Student Life Dore Madere to ask them some of the questions raised by students concerning Aramark and the new meal plan changes.
Who proposed the meal changes?
Madere: Administration is the body who are the decision makers who decide what we provide and what we offer to the students. [sic].
Why were changes proposed?
Madere: Because this was the first year that we tried the All-Access plan, we weren’t really sure, so we threw in a 7-Meal plan. But seeing that the All-Access plan does work, and considering that it is along the same price line as the 10-Meal plan, that’s what we decided to move towards, or to continue with.
Who made the final decision to enact the changes?
Plotts: I made the changes to the meal plan in conjunction with [associate vice president for administration] Pat Daly and Aramark.
To what degree were students consulted?
Plotts: Students were not consulted.
Are changes related to the University of Dallas’ contract with Aramark?
What is the length of the university’s contract and how much of that contract has been completed?
Plotts: While the current contract has multi-year elements to it, it can be bought out by a competitor after any given year. We sign an annual addendum to the contract as a type of renewal. We have already done that for next year’s meal plan options. That is why no changes can be made to the All-Access options. However, we can discuss items of quality, hours, service, options, variety, etc., and Aramark has been very willing to have these discussions with us for the upcoming year.
According to the contract, who makes the final decision on things like meal plan changes: UD or Aramark?
Plotts: Ultimately, it is the University of Dallas that makes the meal plan decision.
Why the All-Access plan in particular?
Madere: That’s a trend that a lot of schools are moving to. If you look at some of our competitors, such as Austin College, that’s something that they offer as well. It’s kind of the way that food service is going is the All-Access meal plan [sic]; it gives access 12 hours a day.
It builds more of a community aspect because it allows people to be in the cafeteria more.
It took away the need for the meal equivalency because we understand that there’s students who … had to go the Rat to get, you know, a piece of pizza and a drink. Whereas now, if a student wants, they can get a fresh salad [sic].
A lot of students complain about the prices of the new plan.
Madere: Is it quality, is it price, or is it quality in comparison to the price? So those are three different things. Because when you say quality, we can work on quality. If it’s that for what we’re charging there should be higher quality, that’s stuff we can do. We’re trying to figure out what’s upsetting.
Looking at [the] 10-Meal plan, that was $1,995. That’s only a few hundred dollars off the All-Access and All-Access Plus [plans].
Seniors and juniors, in particular, [say that they] feel the meal plans for next year are very different from those offered three or four years ago. Why did UD decide to change at that time?
Plotts: The seniors and juniors are correct —the All-Access plan(s) are different from what was offered three to four years ago, and even two years ago.
We offered three meal plans for many years until last year. Prior to this year, we offered a 19-Meal plan for $2,200; and a 14 or 10-Meal plan for $1,995 (the difference was the amount of declining balance with each plan).
Let’s assume that we kept that same meal plan system that was in place two years ago. Students living in the residence halls had to select one of the three plans (the 19, 14, or 10-Meal plans). Upperclassmen could select the lowest cost meal plan which was the 10-Meal plan. In the fall of 2013 the 10-meal plan cost $1,995. Historically, we have increased our food costs three to five percent. Let’s assume the lowest percentage of increase —three percent. That would make the 10-Meal plan $2,054 in the fall of 2014 and $2,115 in the fall of 2015. Consequently, the difference between the lowest cost All-Access plan for Fall 2015 ($2,317) and the cost of the 10-Meal plan for the fall 2015 ($2,115) is $202. So, for an additional $202 per semester a student has access to food 12 hours per day for seven days per week versus ten meals per week.
Would the administration ever consider going back to the 19 and 14-Meal plans?
Plotts: Yes, we will consider going back to the 19-, 14-, 10-Meal plan structure after this year — or [to] other options as presented.
If students wanted change, is there anything students could do to change the current policies or return to the old policies?
Madere: We have created an opportunity for students to have more of a voice in food service matters and that is one thing that we’ve brought back, or introduced, I guess; the Dining Advisory Committee.
But moving into next year, we’re going to formalize that process. So we are going to create a Dining Services Investigatory Committee, and I’ve already got an idea of the two chairs that I would like to lead; certainly one person who was involved with the petition and then also someone from student government. And then we’ll vote on three other people to be part of that committee and what we’re going to do is set aside some money for those people to go research and like visit other campuses (sic), talk to their food service managers, talk to their students and see what the food service is like there.
If the students really want certain changes, we’re asking that the students be involved in the investigation process. We had three meetings, and the first meeting only two people showed up. If there are really 600 people that are that upset, I want 600 people filling up Lynch telling me what they really want.
Plotts: The SG [student government] president, Joey Kelly, has already begun an active role in establishing student research teams over the course of this year to help in the formulation of new plans for next year. I would encourage all students to voice their opinions to the SG leadership as they have been elected to represent the students to the administration. (sic)
Does the petition have any effect on enacting the All-Access?
Madere: For the ’15/’16 school year, no.
Will it affect anything in coming years?
Plotts: Possibly. It will depend on student feedback from this year.
Would UD ever consider changing food service companies after the contract ends?
Plotts: Yes. We are always evaluating our contractual relationships—food service or otherwise.
Would people with dietary restrictions have to be on the All-access Plan, even if they can only eat a fraction of the food offerings?
Dore: The food service director and the executive chef are willing to bend over backwards for the students. It’s just a matter of, if there’s something that you need or something that you think you need, request a meeting, and they’re not hard to get in touch with … I want students to know that they can ask for what they need food-wise, and not just say, “Oh well there’s nothing here I can eat”… if we can’t get it today then we can certainly have it to you by tomorrow.
A lot of people don’t know that we have gluten free bread, people don’t know that you can make a gluten free pizza, I don’t think most people know that.
What about when students who live in dorms who would rather go out to eat or prefer to buy their own food?
Plotts: Students are free to eat as much or as little as they want in the cafeteria.
Do you think it is fair to require students who are over 18 to be on a meal plan?
Plotts: In some cases yes and in others perhaps no. It depends on the level of student maturity.
Is it fair not to reimburse students for meals they do not eat in the cafeteria?
Plotts:This is a more global question for the higher education food service industry that requires more thought. It also leads to a broader question of “pay for service” type industries. For example, why does a student pay for a dorm room when they are home on the weekend? What about classes a student does not attend? Should they have to pay for classes missed? Just thoughts that came to mind in trying to answer your question. Certainly worthy of more discussion.
Does the administration think it is fair that meals differ in quality, but remain at the same price? Because the food trucks do not come until Monday, Sunday dinners frequently offer fewer options.
Plotts: If the menu that is promised is not delivered, this problem needs to be addressed as quickly as possible.
What are UD’s future plans?
Madere: Now that we’re seeing that everyone’s going to be on the All-Access, we’ve been working very closely with Aramark to provide more options during those slow times. So between the hours of 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., we’re looking to see how can we enhance the changing stations (sic); we are going to introduce a stir fry section.
And also we’re going to do a better job of educating the students as far as what options they do have. So not only do you have a sandwich station, but [it] can become a quesadilla station [and] it can easily become a grilled cheese station.
– Sally Krutzig contributed to the reporting for this story.