Dining with Dominican

By Khyeria Ferguson

January 28, 2014

This year, a resident student at Dominican will have paid $3,892 just to eat on campus. Because the cost of tuition continues to rise each year and students want to save money in any ways they can, does people at Dominican find it necessary that there is a mandatory meal plan?

Director of Auxiliary Services and Business Affairs Debra Kash says that over the years, Dining Services has been conscious of making student dining a positive experience.

Currently, the meal plan options vary from 130 to 175 meals to be used during meal exchange hours and $75 to $275 plan dollars to be used at any time in the Cyber Café.

“With this system, students can only use [up to] 19 meals a week, helping manage meals to last for the semester,” Kash said.

 Kash added that Dining Services has been paying attention to the surveys that several students completed in the fall. She says they did not receive many complaints about the meal plans being mandatory.

“Some complaints made [were] mainly health related issues, all in which we work with individuals on case by case,” she said.

However, some students think that changes made over the past few years have not always been the best. Sophomore Armani Procter thinks the changes made to the Cyber this school year took away options that were most favorable to students.

“I need a meal plan to eat, but the variety of food they give us to choose from is limited because we don’t have that many options,” she said. “They took the food from the cyber that everyone enjoyed, like the pizza, breadsticks, calzones and more options for sandwiches.”

“I’m glad I have a meal plan so I know I will be able to eat, but most of the time it’s not good and the options are limited,” sophomore Andre Gray said.

Junior Abbey Abraham admits that the options in Cyber become redundant.

“I get sick of eating the same thing over and over again,” Abraham said. “We need more variety for vegetarians, people with diet restrictions and people with certain religious backgrounds.”        

While the meal plan is convenient for some, others see the nearly $4,000 fee as forced and unnecessary.

“I wish they could break it down more so you could actually see what you’re paying for because I feel like we’re paying too much,” freshman Rosa Martinez said. “I feel like for the amount we’re paying, there should be quality food and more variation.”

“It is a waste of money because I don’t use all of my meals,” freshman Jasmine Watson said. “It’s money that could be going towards something else because this school is really expensive.”

While students have a variety of local options for dining off-campus, constantly eating out may pose another financial and perhaps health conflict for students. The costs racked up from eating out during an entire school year can potentially add up to be the same or more than what students pay to eat on campus. However, if meal plan purchase was optional, one alternative to eating at restaurants and fast-food places could be students purchasing their own groceries at local stores.

Currently, students have the option of using the kitchen available for residents on the first floor of Murray Hall. The kitchen, which is cleaned regularly by maintenance, is equipped with a full stove and oven, refrigerator, microwave, sink and coffee makers. In order to use the kitchen, all residents have to do is provide their ID to the Residence Life desk attendant in the Coughlin Commons in exchange for the kitchen key. Students receive their ID back upon return of the kitchen key. Students may also check out pots, pans and cooking utensils from a Residence Life desk attendant in the Coughlin Commons. While cooking one’s own meals may be cheaper and healthier, it may not always be realistic.

Kash understands students wanting to save money, but argues taking away meal plans interrupts building community.

“It is a part of the college experience. We want to make sure our students eat healthy and take care of themselves,” she said.

Junior Caitlin Patterson says eating on campus allows students to meet new people.

“I know I’ve gone to sit with a friend and someone else I didn’t know, and by the end of lunch I knew the person much better,” she said.

 “It’s an opportunity for conversation and sharing that might not happen otherwise,” junior Emma Hindman said. “Good or bad food, there is a certain bond that is created between students when they share a meal.”

While it looks like the meal plan is here to stay, based on the opinions of students, it may be a good idea for Dining Services to offer students a variety of cost rates for meal plans. Dominican could possibly still offer the standard meal plans but supplement a variety of prices, therefore allowing students to pick a meal plan that fits their individual budget.