The University offers many dining options for students, ranging from meal plans for underclassmen to options such as eating clubs for upperclassmen. Dining is essential to community building, as it gives students the opportunity to interact with others outside of their classes and residential colleges. It is for this reason that the University provides some dining hall swipes for upperclassmen and that eating clubs offer meal exchange programs. Burdensome restrictions, however, make these options inconvenient to use, and more can be done to increase the flexibility of dining options for all students. By making dining more flexible, students will be given more opportunities to interact with others outside of their set dining plans. For this reason, the Editorial Board believes that the University should replace Late Meal swipes with a system of flex dollars, a form of cash credit that can be used at on-campus dining locations. Furthermore, the Board encourages eating clubs to adopt an electronic system for meal swipes.
Currently, our Late Meal system gives cash credit to all students on an unlimited meal plan. All students with the unlimited plan, regardless of whether or not they have swiped into a dining hall meal, are covered up to $5.95 for lunch and $6.95 for dinner. For those on a block plan, it covers a swipe if you didn’t swipe into lunch or dinner that day. While Late Meal strives to provide flexible dining hours, it still poses some restrictions on time, location and the amount that can be used in one sitting. These restrictions would be reduced by moving to a system of flex dollars.
We propose that the total semester value of Late Meal swipes should be given to students as flex dollars. This cash credit would be valid for a semester with no restrictions on time, location or amount charged in one sitting. Students would simply debit the money from their PUIDs (as late meal currently functions). In the case of block meal plans, students could choose between options such as more dining swipes and fewer flex dollars, or fewer dining hall swipes and more flex dollars.
First off, flex dollars are convenient because they do not restrict when and how much students use in a sitting. Late Meal limits students to one swipe per meal, and the cash credit cannot roll over. Thus, even if a student only utilizes one Late Meal a week, he is limited to the same $5.95 or $6.95 per meal as a student who utilizes nine a week. To take advantage of this system, many students needlessly stock up on beverages or snacks at each Late Meal. In contrast, flex dollars would allow students to get meals and snacks when they actually need them. By removing the restrictions on Late Meal, students who miss meals or study late into the night could utilize their dollars more effectively and would have an incentive to avoid wasteful practices.
Flex dollars would also increase the number of locations where food could be purchased by students. In addition to the Food Gallery at Frist Campus Center, there are six campus cafes and Studio ’34, a late-night eating option. While Frist is centrally located, it is far from students studying in locations such as Forbes College or the Engineering Quadrangle. Under the new system, students would be able to use their flex dollars at locations such as the E Quad Café. Without time and location restraints, congestion in the Food Gallery would be reduced, since demand would spread out across campus.
Just as flex dollars would benefit underclassmen, eating clubs can make dining more flexible and encourage community building. The Board encourages eating clubs to adopt an electronic system for meal swipes. Eating clubs allow meal exchanges with members of other eating clubs or with dining hall meal plan holders. These exchanges are extremely important because they allow upperclassmen to stay in touch with friends, to get to know underclassmen and to remain connected to the Princeton community. However, the current system of meal exchanges largely takes place through physical forms that are filled out by members and then processed by each club or dining hall. Furthermore, since the current system fines students who don’t complete their exchanges within the calendar month, this deters many from taking full advantage of their meal exchanges. An electronic meal swipe system would streamline the process, allowing members to meal exchange more easily and keep track of their exchanges. A per-semester, rather than month-based, system would remove restraints and give students more opportunities to take advantage of this system.
Therefore, by removing some existing restraints on Late Meal and eating club dining options, students will have more flexibility in deciding when and where to eat. With more opportunities to interact with other students, this flexibility ultimately benefits community building at the University.
TheEditorial Boardis an independent body and decides its opinionsseparately from the regular staff and editors of the ‘Prince.’ The board answers only to its Chair, the Opinion Editor and the Editor-in-Chief.