Students on cheaper plans suffer from new dining program

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Occidental’s dining services may have recently been ranked as the fourteenth best college for food in America by The Daily Meal, but rather than informing students about measures to improve the quality of its products, the school has instead sought to implement a new meal plan system that is unequal and discourages on-campus purchases.

When news broke last semester that the college would switch to a new meal plan system, one that used words like “Meal Money,” “membership” and “base cost reduction,” all students wanted to know was whether they were losing money or gaining money. And although Campus Dining touts the “50 percent discounts!” received by its meal plan buyers, the college fails to make transparent what is systemically troublesome for on-campus diners.

When buyers purchase a meal plan (that is: A, B, C or D), $1,300 is automatically subtracted from the price tag and “members” are left with the balance. Plan A and B buyers are left with 53.9 percent and 50.5 percent of their plans, respectively; but Plan C and D buyers can only pocket 45.5 percent and 40.4 percent of their respective plans. If every on-campus eater was truly a “member” of the meal plan club, there would be a more uniform and more equal ratio of real money kept to discount received.

Based on these numbers, Campus Dining looks as if they are encouraging students to subscribe to the least popular and most robust meal plans, which contradicts the issues of misdirected demand and irregular perception that the whole meal plan change is meant to address. Campus Dining may as well tack on 99 cents to the price of every meal rather than attempt to cut corners and go through the hassle of creating a two-tier pricing system.

By giving less purchasing power to Plan C and D buyers – buyers who either cannot afford Plan B, do not consume Plan B’s allotted amount or would rather not enter the world of FLEX money – these members do not receive their fair portion of Campus Dining services, thus discouraging them from remaining on a meal plan if these “members” decide to move off-campus.

If Campus Dining is compensating for student misperceptions regarding the pricing and value of its items, they should instead focus on creating a more uniform cost structure and greater incentives for students to eat on campus. By identifying students’ perceptions of price as the problem, they are avoiding it in the first place. And although Campus Dining continues to brandish its options, it must rethink how they imagine students buying into its services.

This editorial represents the collective opinion of the Occidental Weekly Editorial Board. Each week, the Editorial Board will publish its viewpoint on a matter relevant to the Occidental community.

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