It may be news to some current students, but CIA has just implemented a new dining plan which mimics a more traditional college meal plan. The new structure includes four different plans that students can purchase, each with different features. The first is the “base” plan, which is required by all students. This is the system of 20 points per day which we all are accustomed to. The change comes with the three other plans available which bundle gold points with the normal blue or green points. The residential, residential plus and the residential ultimate plans each have 20 points a day but then add 325, 650 and 1,000 gold points respectively. Each plan increases in price as you move towards more gold points. Students can also opt to buy more gold points to supplement their plan until the next semester. The Associate Director of Dining services, Peg Graham explains that the dining plan “is about the same, but now it is a sealed deal.” If the new plan isn’t much different, then why did dining services choose to change?
Graham explained that the change came about by “listening to students and parents.” She went on to say that there was a decent amount of confusion with incoming students and their parents as to how the dining plan worked because it was so different from a traditional college. “Lots of people didn’t realize there was no dining on the weekends,” Graham said. With this realization, parents would become frustrated that they were paying for this meal plan but then their son or daughter couldn’t go and swipe their card on the weekends. Bundling the gold points into a plan takes away some of that confusion by allowing some flexibility with weekend dining. However, this is still an upgrade that students must pay more for and does not come with the base plan. The feedback has been great according to Graham, but this plan is nothing new for incoming students. Many current students are not even aware that there are new options to take advantage of.
Eva Ramirez is a current student who was a part of the June 20th start date, which was one of the final classes to be given the traditional dining plan. When asked if she was aware of the new dining plan her response was simply, “what new dining plan?” New students are being told about this new system in detail during their orientations. However current students may have only heard rumblings about a new dining plan and many, like Eva, do not even know of its existence. If a student was not enthusiastically looking for information about it, it would be pretty hard to know that this new plan has been applied. The only evidence of the plan is found online or on the small table displays in Farquharson hall. Graham says that dining services will be actively reaching out to current students in the near future. “We’ll be setting up tables where students can sign up for a new plan in Farquharson hall, we are getting involved in club con and an explanation of the plans can be found on the student portal,” Graham explained. If you are interested in trading up to a new plan, calling dining services would be your best bet.
While I had Peg Graham, I wanted to talk to her about two issues I hear students bring up all the time. The first comes from first year students asking “why do I only get blue points?” Graham explained that the goal of dining services is not only to feed us students but allow students in the production kitchen to have a captive audience. “We tried getting rid of blue points and green points a long time ago, and no one came up to Roth,” she told me. Dining services focuses a lot on education as well, which is a unique aspect not found at other colleges. First year students can taste all different kinds of cuisines, furthering their education while students in the production kitchen can have people come and eat. Students receive green points during their later years to give more variety and options, because one can only eat at Americas so many times.
We also discussed those students who are nay sayers, and often complain about food being underdone or whatever the imperfection may be. Graham realizes that in “education there are bad days.” Any student may have had the experience where their chicken was pink in Roth or their pork was dry at the Egg. When a situation like this arises, Graham says “bring it to dining services and you will get your points back for the day. I want you happy.” At CIA the dining plan is a tricky balance between service and education, and dining services walks that line.
In the long run, Graham says that the new dining plan “is a better value.” It seems that it would be much easier to understand for incoming students and parents with the bundle, and current students can also benefit from the new plan once word reaches them.