By Sojin Shin || Contributing Writer
Sometime last week, I stopped by Mein Bowl to grab sushi. It cost me a swipe and 1.09 Flex. After that, I started walking to Shadek, which is when I saw the poster on the Protest tree. It said that,
Meal Swipe= $5
150 * 5= 750
Where is my money?
Since then, more posters about meal plans have been hung on the tree. Now, if people were to walk by it, they would see the tree plastered with memes and posters addressing this issue. While a lot of them are lighthearted, it does seem that the situation is deeply frustrating for most people. I interviewed a couple of my friends, and they all seemed to agree that Meal Swipe is an odd currency.
One person defended it. “You know, it isn’t that terrible. Dhall costs way more than five dollars.” a friend of mine said. I agreed that she had a point, but another friend quickly added.
“Yeah, but you have to Flex for everything if you want sushi or just not Dhall.” She clicked her pen and spoke. “Like how much are the swipes?”
The conversation went on for a little while, until it fizzled off. But you know, I think that my pen-clicker friend did get to the core of this issue. Meal Swipe is an inconsistent currency. It’s 5 in CC, 6 in Blueline. That in itself is annoying—. But moreover, there is the question of whether such prices are an accurate reflection of what they cost us. Beneath is all the possible values of Meal Swipes based on the price of our plans. Here, I am assuming that 1 Flex= 1 dollar. All numbers are rounded to the hundredth. https://fandmdining.sodexomyway.com/my-meal-plan/# was the reference I used.
225 Meal Block Plan with $120 Flex: 2,950 dollars
(2,950-120)/225= 12. 58.
150 Meal Block Plan with $400 Flex: 2, 880 dollars
(2,880-400)/150= 16. 53.
125 Meal Block plan with $220 Flex: 2, 630 dollars
70 Meal Block Plan with $225 Flex: 1, 845 dollars
(1,845-225)/70= 23. 14
50 Meal Block Plan with $340 Flex: 1, 580 dollars.
[Available to Juniors & Seniors]
(1,580-340)/50= 24. 80
Meals Per Week Options: [there are 14 and a half weeks in Fall 2019 semester–Aug 28 to Dec 15–I will round it up to 15 weeks, considering freshman orientation.]
20 Meals Per Week with $180 Flex: 2,970 dollars
14 Meals Per Week with $250 Flex: 2,950 dollars
7 Meals Per Week with no Flex: 1,630 dollars (junior/senior only)
Finally, the average of all the Meal Swipe prices found based on rounded numbers=16.76
Also, an interesting fact: the plan that results in the cheapest value for a Meal Swipe is the most expensive plan (20 Meals Per Week with 180 Flex). Also, even in that case, a Meal Swipe still costs roughly 9.3 dollars.
The inconsistency of the value and the cost of Meal Swipes itself is a problem. Moreover, it is clear that the money we pay for Meal Swipes exceed what they are worth, at least in Blueline and College center. And frankly, very few people eat solely at the Dining Hall. On one level it’s a simple matter of needing some variety. But sometimes, class schedules force people to eat in places that are much closer to the buildings such as Keiper or Stager. So it is highly problematic that CC or Blueline employs this rule, where we are made to pay already overcharged Meal Swipes and Flex.
What disturbs me the most is that most students have no option but to buy the meal plan as it is. Freshmen are required to purchase a meal plan; most on-campus inhabitants lack kitchen access and have to resort to buying overpriced meals.
Of course, there is the argument that one should consider “invisible” prices, including labor and services. Yet, it is common knowledge that the final price of an item should be inclusive of all those factors. So saying something is eight dollars and making us pay far more in reality, let’s say 16 (the average price of Meal Swipe), would be considered as an outright lie. And given that a hearty bowl of Pho at a local restaurant like Rice and Noodle costs only eight dollars, it seems that school is indeed overcharging us even after considering labor and maintenance.
If there is a reason why Meal Swipe prices fluctuate so much, the college is not being transparent about it. If there is a reason why Meal Swipes are so expensive, the college is not being transparent about it either. In this kind of situation, I can’t help but feel that our lack of choices are being exploited. The college needs to produce a reasonable response to our complaints.
Sophomore Sojin Shin is a Contributing Writer. Her email is sshin@ fandm.edu.