Students weigh in on required meal plans

Tal Norvell/Sun Star Reporter

Mar. 4, 2014

Some students object to UAF’s policy requiring most dorm dwellers to purchase a meal plan from Dining Services.

“I absolutely don’t like it,” said 19-year-old Art student and campus resident Lauren Fisher. 

Only graduate students, Cutler Apartment residents and Sustainable Village residents are exempt. Everyone else must pay for a meal plan ranging from $1,810 to $2,250 each semester, according to the latest Dining Services Application and Agreement.

Fisher said Dining Services and Residence Life are trying to take charge of student nutritional routines.

Fisher says meal plans should be optional for all students, allowing them to “take responsibility for their own eating habits.”

A lack of kitchen space in residence halls and student nutritional needs are justifications for required meal plans, according to UAF Contracts Manager Pamm Zierfuss-Hubbard.

“You may think that you can eat off a hot plate in your room for an entire semester when really, you’re not getting a balanced meal out of it,” Zierfuss-Hubbard said in general reference to freshmen and sophomores. “We’re here to educate you. We’re also housing you; we’ve got to feed you a balanced meal so that your mom and dad don’t worry about it.”

History and Russian Studies student Melinda Relph has allergies and said most of the food at the Lola Tilly Commons has cheese in it, which she cannot eat. 

“I would rather have the option of cooking for myself,” Relph said.

Residents who don’t want a meal plan must provide medical documentation to be exempt from the policy, according to Zierfuss-Hubbard. 

“We have chefs and nutritionists on staff whose entire job is to make sure we have something here to feed you,” she said.

Budget priced meal plans are available to Cutler residents, who have their own kitchens, and Wickersham hall residents, and junior, senior and graduate students. 

For $655 or $1,200 per semester, these optional plans are “Munch Money” based, meaning they can be used at any dining location on campus. Freshmen and sophomores can choose a plan from $1,810 to $2,250 per semester.

“I think it’s ridiculous that freshmen and sophomores have to pay for the more expensive meal plans,” said 21-year-old Geophysics student Amanda Mcpherson.

Mcpherson is a junior who no longer resides on campus and does not have a meal plan. She said meal plans shouldn’t be mandatory because they represent extra cost for students who already pay residence fees.

Revised meal plans for all campus residents, regardless of degree year, will be available when the new dining area in the William Ransom Wood Center is complete, according to Zierfuss-Hubbard.

The required meal plan policy will remain, but Zierfuss-Hubbard said she will listen to student feedback when adjusting prices.

One student said the meal plan selection should be improved.

“I just wish I had more flexibility,” said 19-year-old Mechanical Engineering student Erik Grazulis. “Maybe a few other plans that gave me more control over my meal plan even if they weren’t necessarily cheaper.”

Another student said he’s not upset about having to purchase a meal plan.

“It doesn’t bother me that much,” 19-year-old Geology student Alonzo Gage said, “The college is both an education system and a business. It has to have a way to support itself.”

“I’m paying for the meal plan myself,” Mcpherson said. Not everyone is coming to campus on their daddy’s money.”

Updated Thursday, March 6, 2014: An earlier version of this article stated that Amanda Mcpherson has a meal plan at the Lola Tilly Commons, Mcpherson does not have a meal plan. The Sun Star apologizes for this error.

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