Brandeis recently announced, amid student protests, that meal plans would become mandatory for students not next year, but in the fall of 2016. The email released by Brandeis titled “INFORMATIONAL: Dining Update” detailed a timeline for upcoming dining transformations. These alterations promised by the university are part of a “slow phase-in schedule … to offer students many more opportunities to offer their feedback.”
Student Union President Ricky Rosen states that the Student Union did support many of the proposed dining changes, from unlimited swipes to elimination of meal equivalency. But he also agrees that mandatory meal plans have been met with some resistance from the student body.
“[The Student Union] did express our concerns to administration about the mandatory meal plan policy,” said Rosen. “Our concerns about the mandatory meal plan policy were mainly regarding the issues of affordability, as well as how this would impact student housing. Our fear was that in light of these changes, students would turn to off-campus accommodations, which would not benefit students and would certainly not benefit the university.”
Rosen states that in a way, the administration attempted to meet the student body halfway by rolling out a four-year phase-in for major meal plan changes instead of implementing them immediately. He also admits that the Student Union does understand the necessity of mandatory meal plans, for Brandeis’ administrative and financial reasons.
“However, our responsibility, at the end of the day, is to the student body and to have their voices heard before any changes are made,” Rosen said. The Student Union tried to address student’s unhappiness with mandatory meal-plans through sending out a survey, but the effort was unsuccessful.
“We sent out a survey to students in December regarding their opinions on meal plans, which had 877 student respondents. However, the survey results did not ultimately impact the administration’s decisions on dining policies, which as I understand, were the result of conversations that had been ongoing for several years.”
Despite this setback, Rosen promises that the Student Union will continue advocating for students.
“Obviously, there are many students who attend this institution who have significant financial need. It is certainly one of our bigger priorities going forward to push for affordable alternatives to the new meal plans to accommodate these students,” Rosen said.
Andrew Flagel, senior vice president for students and enrollment, stated that changes to Brandeis dining were proposed because over the years, students have consistently asked for more dining hours, more venues and value for their meal plans.
In explaining the idea behind mandatory meal plans, Flagel said the following: “Continuing discussions highlighted the disparity between Brandeis and our peers in significantly discounting juniors and seniors residing in on campus apartments for on-campus costs. At most institutions, that residential cost is fairly consistent over a four year enrollment, while at Brandeis most seniors and juniors pay significantly less than most first- and second-year students,” Flagel said. “Not surprisingly given that feedback, all of the competing vendors proposed models that encompassed a residential dining requirement at Brandeis.”
Flagel also envisions a total revamping of all Brandeis dining services. “I think it’s important to bear in mind that before the new requirements impact any Brandeis students, both of our major dining venues will be entirely renovated,” he said. “It is difficult to compare where we are now with the dining system that will be available in Fall 2015, and I’m sure there will be many more changes discussed in the interim.”
Other transformations outlined in the timeline of the email include a total revision of Lower Usdan and an expansion of Einstein Bros. Bagels. New meal plans titled “unlimited” and “flex program” will be implemented. Sherman and the Stein will also undergo renovations. There will be an additional apartment-style meal plan for older students.
Like Rosen, Flagel highlights the importance of a continued dialogue between administration members, dining services and the student body.
“It is so crucial that we have students engaged in dining discussions who take a big picture view … student satisfaction is the largest performance indicator for our dining partner,” said Flagel.
He also has very high hopes for the future of Brandeis dining.
“I am very glad that student input has helped shape what has the potential to be one of the better dining systems available in any college or university setting,” he said.