Editorial, Opinion

EDITORIAL: BU’s convenience, dining points system is broken. Here’s how we’d fix it.

Dining plans are a vital part of student life at any college. At Boston University, every dining plan offers a mix of meal swipes and dining points, which can be used at about 20 locations on campus. Students can also purchase convenience points, which can be used at seven food establishments, City Convenience stores and a few other locations on campus.

This current meal and payment system is in many ways inconvenient and wasteful. Dining points should be a valid form of payment at the seven restaurants that only allow convenience points.

The Starbucks and Basho locations at 700 Commonwealth Ave. are prime examples of the discrepancies in BU’s points system. Both restaurants have locations in the George Sherman Union that accept dining points, but the Warren Towers locations do not.

Students who live in Warren Towers are thus encouraged to spend convenience points, an out-of-pocket expense, when they could otherwise be using dining points that they have already paid for.

Similarly, Buick Street Market accepts dining points, but City Convenience stores do not. These establishments offer a very similar selection of products. At City Co., you should be able to purchase sandwiches, salads and other food and drinks with dining points.

Convenience points are convenient for laundry and printing, as well as for students who don’t have a credit or debit card. They are also a useful tool for freshmen whose parents want to ensure their students have enough money to spend on food and other necessities.

Yet on the information page about convenience points on BU’s website, BU recommends students have “an opening balance of $800 in a Convenience Points account to cover basic needs.” That amount of money is ridiculous on top of the enormous costs of tuition, housing and the meal plans required for most students.

Meal plans, after all, should fully cover basic dining needs. And no one needs to spend $800 on other necessities such as laundry and toiletries.

There are two flexible dining plans — the 250 and 330 — for students who tend to use dining points more frequently. However, they are not flexible enough. While students can use dining points to purchase meal swipes, they cannot convert meal swipes into dining points.

Considering meal swipes only transfer to the next semester within a calendar year, this precipitates waste that the university profits from. Students should be able to convert meal swipes into dining points, allowing them to more fully utilize the cost of at least $5,480 per year for a dining plan.

BU needs to be transparent about how many students end the semester with unused meal swipes and dining points, because in our experience, this is rather common. Students only receive half-credit for unused dining points of balances over $10 at the end of the academic year.

Instead of forcing students to lose half the value of their dining points, there should be a system in which students are able to donate the full value of their unused meal swipes and dining points to less-fortunate students and the greater BU community.

After freshman year, students should not be required to purchase a dining plan — especially with this wasteful system — even if they live in on-campus housing.

BU should instead offer a partial dining plan, similar to the current apartment plans but available to all students, designed for those who don’t eat at BU establishments very frequently. For students who live in Danielsen Hall, for instance, the nearest dining hall is roughly a half-mile away.

What’s more, at a school in an urban environment, students should have easy access to the wide variety of food establishments around them. More of these places should accept dining and convenience points. This would not only help the businesses by increasing student traffic, but it might also help get students out of the “BU bubble.”

Think about it — what if Star Market took convenience points? What if you could spend dining points at Noodle Street? What if restaurants on Newbury Street partnered with the university to make student dining more accessible? Boston is a college town, and its food scene should reflect that, too.

BU should not profit from unused meal swipes and points. The system should adapt to reflect students’ dining habits, not the other way around.

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