Art by Christine Nelson
It’s the beginning of the semester during the usual lunch craze in the Caf. A junior, who didn’t buy a meal plan this year since she cooks most of her meals in her apartment, guesses she has about 80 meal points leftover from the meal plan she bought for summer school. These points should definitely be enough for the occasional meal in the Caf throughout the semester, right?
Maybe not. When the student finally makes it to the cashier, she finds she only has $8 left in her account, barely enough to pay for her overpriced dish.
Recently, according to Jon Mathis, Associate Dean of Students and Director for Housing and Residence Life, HRL implemented a new rollover policy for meal points, which “came into effect at the beginning of this academic year.” The details of this policy, as documented on the HRL webpage under the “Meal Plans” section, are the following: “Students must be enrolled in a Waves 1000 plan or higher for both the fall and spring semesters to be eligible for rollover points … a maximum of 10 percent of the meal plan cost will rollover.”
This means that students with any of the other three smaller meal plan packages of 250, 500 and 750 points will unfairly lose any leftover points they may have by the end of the semester. Many upperclassmen at Pepperdine live off campus and need only the smallest packages. Some faculty and staff also opt for a small meal plan each semester for lunches with students or a pick-me-up coffee before class.
How will all of these members of the community be impacted when their unused points suddenly do not rollover to the next semester? At best, it will be frustrating. At worst, it could cause serious financial distress.
What makes matters worse is that, as stated on HRL’s website, “First-year residents … are required to purchase a minimum of Waves 1600 each semester … students living in sophomore housing are able to opt-down to purchase a minimum of Waves 1000 each semester.”
In essence, this means freshmen and sophomores have to pay for these expensive plan regardless of their need, and they have no choice but to accept the unfair 10 percent rollover policy, regardless of how much of their plan they use. On top of that, all points for the academic year expire entirely July 31.
Furthermore, HRL estimates on their webpage that a person will spend seven to eight points per meal, yet — besides the standard options, like the Grill and salad bar — it is common for students to pay significantly more than that per meal just for the entree, let alone a drink, side, snacks and/or dessert. For example, last week, a tri-tip sandwich was $10.99 and a lobster club was $14.99.
To make the situation even more stressful, Mathis wrote in an email that “students were notified of the change through our website.”
However, essentially no student, faculty or staff has, at any point, received any sort of notification to alert them of this major change in meal plans. A simple email from the HRL office would have sufficed to give people a fair warning. This inflation of food prices and these policy changes have snuck up on students and faculty alike, and with no other options on campus, everyone is stuck with living on the salad bar (and salad gets old, people.)
Malibu itself offers limited alternatives. Ralph’s has its own deli and salad bar (whoo, more salad), Chipotle has its pseudo-Mexican food, and Subway offers it’s “eat fresh” sandwiches. Besides these locations, breaking the bank is the only way to eat around here.
It’s understandable that Sodexo needs profit, and meal points help the chef plan the meals based on the amount of food expected to be bought on a given day or in a given year.
Still, the Caf should aim to serve the needs of its students, faculty and staff. Students already pay a high tuition, and many put their families or themselves under the burden of debt to attend Pepperdine. Staff work long, difficult hours, and it’s no secret that many professors need to pinch pennies as well. It doesn’t seem ridiculous to ask for high-quality, affordable meals when so many need them — or at least to be able to keep the meal points for which we pay.
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