Baylor raises dining prices for faculty and staff for first time in nearly 20 years

Faculty and staff, such as Dave Kennedy, assistant director for campus recreation, love the dining hall discounts. Lilly Yablon | Photographer

By Luke Lattanzi | Staff Writer

Baylor will be raising door prices for faculty and staff at all residential dining halls and the McMullen-Connally Faculty Center for the first time in nearly 20 years.

Faculty and staff currently enjoy dining discounts that allow them to eat at university dining halls at rates significantly cheaper than student meal plans.

According to a Baylor email announcement sent to all faculty and staff on March 26, the cost of student meal plans has increased steadily with inflation, allowing for institutional subsidies on faculty and staff dining to remain the same for nearly two decades. However, due to inflation, the university has decided to raise faculty and staff dining rates.

“As we further prioritize Baylor’s affordability for students, we must acknowledge that the current rate of institutional subsidy for faculty and staff, their spouses and their dependents to access deep dining discounts is fiscally unsustainable,” the email read.

The email stated the door rate for all residential dining halls for faculty and staff will increase to $5.50 for all meals. The McMullen-Connally Faculty Center will see a $2 increase for the buffet and salad bar, with pricing for beverages remaining the same.

The 50% dining discount enjoyed by all biweekly employees for on-campus fast-food chains like Chick-fil-A, Panda Express and Asian Tako will remain the same. All price changes will take effect Aug. 1.

Baylor has not changed the eligibility requirements for these benefits, and faculty and staff are still permitted to take their spouses and dependents with them to university dining halls.

The email also stated the discounts enjoyed by faculty and staff will be extended to graduate students, including those who attend Baylor Law School and George W. Truett Theological Seminary.

Additionally, Baylor will be evaluating faculty and staff dining discounts regularly to ensure they are sustainable for the university relative to inflation.

Peter Granick, associate vice president of business services and chief procurement officer, said Baylor has been considering raising dining prices for faculty and staff since 2019 — a process put on hold when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020.

“When COVID-19 hit, we realized that many people rely on that [discount] associated with the dining,” Granick said. “And we felt that if we went ahead and raised it at that point in time, we would be putting people in need at risk, and we didn’t want to do that.”

With COVID-19 having rounded off and food prices continuing to rise yearly across the country, Granick said the university is now taking a different stance.

According to the Consumer Price Index — the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ main tool for measuring inflation — food prices have risen an average of 3.33% annually from February 2004 to February 2024 in the index’s “food away from home” category.

“Food away from home” measures the prices consumers are paying for food they eat outside the home, such as at restaurants or cafeterias. College dining halls fall into this category.

Kimberly Black, chair of Baylor’s Staff Council — an organization devoted to representing the interests of staff members at Baylor — said that while she can’t speak for all staff members on campus, she believes the price increases are not desirable but are nevertheless a long time coming.

“I think all of us can also attest to knowing and feeling personally inflation, right?” Black said. “Just the last three years, I think all of us realize our grocery bills are more expensive. And it can’t be any different for Baylor. And so I think that while some of us will experience that pinch, I think we also see what is true about the economy around us.”

Lorynn Divita, associate professor of apparel design and merchandising, uses the dining halls twice a week at a minimum and said she also understands the price increases. However, she said she will ultimately have to use the dining halls less frequently as a result.

The bulk of her disappointment, Divita said, was the opportunity that dining halls provide for faculty to get to know their students outside of class and how using the dining halls less frequently may inhibit that opportunity.

“I also like the message it shows to students: ‘Hey, I’m not so different than you. I like this. I eat this food too,’” Divita said. “So even though it is still a good value, when a price of anything doubles, you have to adjust your behavior accordingly. So it does mean that I will have to go there less.”

Amber Adamson, senior lecturer in the department of journalism, public relations and new media, frequents the dining halls with her daughter and said she doesn’t mind the price increases. She said the decision reflects the wider economic trend of rising prices across the country.

“I had heard that a price increase was imminent, and I was concerned that it would be more, so I’m pleased that it’s only $2,” Adamson said. “That’s reasonable, especially with inflation and the cost of supplies going up. I can understand that and agree with a bit of a price increase there.”

Bruce Evans, associate librarian and director of cataloging and metadata services, utilizes the dining halls with his wife nearly every day and said the price increases will most likely affect the frequency of their visits. He said he believes Baylor should evaluate the dining prices more regularly so that changes are not as sudden.

“[I would like to see] maybe more incremental increases over time, rather than going a long time with a certain price and then all of a sudden greatly increasing percentage-wise the price of dining,” Evans said. “So maybe that could be something they look into, is doing incremental changes over time rather than a big change like this all at once.”

Luke Lattanzi is a senior political science major with a minor in news-editorial originally from Monroe Township, New Jersey, now based in Houston. In his last semester at the Lariat, he is excited to learn more about what it takes to report for a daily news publication. Luke also serves as assistant editor for conservative digital magazine American Pigeon. He hopes to work for a publication as a reporter after graduation.