One unanimous complaint unites Boston University’s student population: the call for more dining plan options.
BU offers five dining plans for on-campus students, none, arguably, more convenient than the other. Considering these plans are mandatory, it may be presumed some attractive options lie in wait. However, as any student who has made the dreaded decision can tell you, picking a dining plan is like choosing between a rock and a hard place. That is, if both the rock and the hard place were the food you were expected to eat 9 months out of the year, and they cost at least $6,140.
The stringent nature of the plans makes it impossible to bend them to your needs. While the 330 plan’s 9 to 11 meals per week offers enough to eat at least once per day, or multiple times considering how you divide your swipes, this option only works if the BU dining halls meet your dietary restrictions.
Students that are vegan, vegetarian, or have allergies automatically have less choices at any given dining hall — making a meal plan which prioritizes meal swipes a non-option. In that case, the 250 plan might be proposed, which allows the most dining points of all the plans, offering $665 per semester in dining points and 6 to 7, possibly unusable, meal swipes per week. However, on campus restaurants can be far from affordable.
The 250 plan allows students roughly $55 per week, but when a sushi bowl at Basho Sushi starts at $13.99 and the beloved Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew at Starbucks costs a whopping $5.62, the stipend hardly lasts the entirety of the semester.
Hacks exist to mold these plans to your liking. Starting the Fall semester off with the 330 plan and switching to the 250 for the Spring will convert leftover meal swipes into dining points. This hack takes advantage of the well known fact that using all of one’s meal swipes is a rare occurrence.
These workarounds, while innovative, are no cheat. In fact, BU Dining themselves may have implemented these strategies to allow those with dietary restrictions to make the most of their gourmet meal plan.
If it’s the case that even BU understands dining points are in high demand, why is there no meal plan option which prioritizes the points over swipes?
The University’s inflexibility is only exaggerated when you realize the majority of dorms don’t have kitchens to give students the option to cook for themselves. BU microfridges — the only university-approved heating device beside popcorn machines — cost $239 per year, an option typically more expensive than buying one’s own separate fridge and microwave to use over the next four years.
High prices such as these serve as another example of BU feeding off our desperation. By jacking up the price of microwaves and fridges, BU proves they understand what nutritional agency, even the small amount utilized when cooking a frozen dinner, truly means to students.
Many students each semester make the move to off-campus living, going out of their way and perhaps more out of pocket than they’d like, to avoid buying a dining plan.
With so many hoops to jump through it’s hard to draw any conclusion besides that BU’s systems are intentionally rigid, hoping to make these plans unreliable to force students to spend money on convenience points, rental appliances, or directly at on campus restaurants.
The obvious argument is that the suckage of college dining halls and plans is a universal experience, but perhaps it doesn’t have to be. Business Insiders’ “15 best college dining halls in America” lists universities from across the country — all but two of the plans included were cheaper than BU’s. If the best of the best can still manage to be affordable, why does mediocrity cost an arm and a leg?
There should be a dining plan option which offers students, or at least students with significant dietary restrictions, enough dining points to stretch out over the course of a semester. Or, a customizable option, which sets a given price and allows students to allot where the money goes — whether that be to meal swipes or dining points.
Food isn’t a privilege, it’s a right. We all need to eat, and what we eat greatly impacts how we perform in our day-to-day lives. If students have no choice but to pay for a plan, at least give us our money’s worth.