Meal plan requirements should be more flexible for students living in residential colleges

Having a required meal plan is almost a rite of passage for every student at Baylor. With the rare exception here and there, every freshman is required to pay for a dining plan their first year. By sophomore year, students are free to choose which plan, if any, best suits their on-campus eating habits — that is, unless you live in Teal or Brooks Residential College.

The residents of these living and learning communities are required and limited to choosing between The Weekday 100, The Weekday 200, The Everyday 50 or The Everyday 150 regardless of their year classification. For a student who does not mind the extra meals, this will not be a problem. However, those who do not want one of these plans seem to be out of luck. In fact, these students will be faced with nothing but a lack of answers and misdirected authority in their search to get this restriction taken off. Someone needs to take responsibility for the enforcement of this plan and answer to the students who do not need or want to pay for one of the only four meal options offered.

A look at both the Brooks and Teal Residential College websites suggests that a meal plan is required upon approval to live in the community. However, the first problem with this is that the meal plans are designated by Dining Services. This makes it easy for the meal plan requirements to be subject to change, as was seen this year when the top four dining packages were introduced and the old requirement of at least 11 meals per week was tossed aside.

For a student who just had a plan similar to this one last year, a change like this could come as a surprise. Hypothetically speaking, if a student were to get a meal plan of 11 meals a week last year, in the course of a 16-week semester they would be able to eat at the dining hall 176 times (not counting guest passes). By comparison, with the minimum Weekday 100 plan, a student is automatically given a pre-set number of 1,000 meals to use over the course of one semester. Despite the fact that the plan prohibits you from using any of them on weekends unless you use a guest pass, BearBucks or pay out of pocket.

Aside from potentially having too many meals going unused, the imposed meal plans don’t come cheap, either. In fact, the gap between The Classic 10, which is the highest plan on the lower tier, and The Weekday 100, the lowest of the required plans for Teal and Brooks, is $550.79. The price of a meal plan at Baylor itself is not the debate here, but rather the fact that a student has no choice in deciding how to spend their $550.79. This amount is an especially significant figure for students who must rely on scholarships to help fund their education. It is even more unfortunate to think that a required meal plan could be the deciding factor in choosing where to live on campus.

While some may argue that having this restriction in place is the price one must pay to be part of a residential college, there is an exception to this rule that breaks down this line of logic: Honors. The Honors Residential College is a college that, unlike Brooks and Teal, does not require its upperclassmen to have any one particular dining plan. Why then are Teal and Brooks any different?

In trying to find an answer to this question and explore the possibility of having this restriction taken off, the Lariat has attempted to talk to residential college staff, the Cashier’s Office, Dining Services, Aramark and Campus Living and Learning, all of which referred us back to one of these authorities. A run-around like this is more than a nuisance. It’s concerning. With thousands of dollars going into campus dining, you would think that there would be at least be one person a student could talk to concerning this restriction. After all, the residents of Teal and Brooks were never asked how they feel about the changes. The least they deserve is a person to whom they could refer all their questions or seek a suitable alternative to the issue at hand.

A description above the eight meal plans outlined on the Baylor Dining Services website reads, “At Baylor University, meal plans are convenient, flexible and loaded with options.” If this is indeed the goal of offering a dining meal program, then the system has let many students at Teal and Brooks Residential Colleges down. Being unable to choose a dining plan that best suits you or talk to anyone about it is neither convenient, flexible nor gives you many options at all.