The Associated Students of the University of Arizona are working with the Marshall Foundation, which owns most of the restaurants on East University Boulevard, to develop an alternative to a mandatory meal plan.
Dan Adams, director of the Student Union Memorial Center, said he is working to create and finalize a proposal that would require freshmen living on campus to purchase several meals each week from the unions.
Adams said in an interview last month that the proposal, which is still in its initial stages, is dynamic, but he said the cost for freshmen would amount to about $1,800 for the year.
Adams said the student unions need a fixed revenue each year to cover operational costs. A mandatory meal plan for students living in residence halls would give them various options, possibly including unlimited eating and a debit amount on CatCards.
The proposal, which would have to be approved by the Arizona Board of Regents, has generated attention from different student organizations that said a mandatory plan would not work for UA students, even though other Arizona and Pacific 10 Conference universities have gone that route.
Former ASUA administrative vice presidential candidate Keven Barker, who is pursuing an appointment within ASUA for next year, said he wants to create an alternative proposal that could provide the unions with a fixed amount of revenue each year while expanding options for on-campus freshmen.
Instead of forcing students to purchase meals on campus, Barker, a finance senior, said he wants to keep the current meal system but hopes the Marshall Foundation will allow students to use their CatCards at some of the restaurants in Main Gate Square.
In return, Barker said he wants the Marshall Foundation to contribute money to the union.
The Marshal Foundation owns all of the businesses on East University Boulevard between North Park Avenue and North Euclid Avenue, except for No Anchovies, Landmark Co., Frog & Firkin and Chen's.
If this happens, Barker said the unions could operate without making students foot the bill.
"There is no reason for students to subsidize the union," Barker said.
Barker said CatCards are already set up to work like a debit card, and there is no reason not to include local restaurants in the current meal plan system.
"We've turned our backs on the community (in the past) and they would love to help," he said.
Barker said ASUA will present the idea to the Residence Hall Association tonight to gain their support.
Newly-elected ASUA Senator Matthew Loehman, who will begin his term in the fall semester, said he has not met one student who liked the idea of a mandatory meal plan.
"If we can show strong enough student support against the meal plan, it won't happen," he said. "They've taken a flawed system and seem to want to make it more flawed.
Loehman, a pre-business sophomore, said that if ASUA and the Marshall Foundation can work together to develop ways for the union to receive money without a mandatory plan, everyone could be content.
The Marshall Foundation donates 50 to 60 percent of profits from overseeing the local business to the university each year, which is at least $375,000. The money goes toward scholarships and fellowships.
Jane McCollum, the Marshall Foundation's general manager, said she is unsure if a mandatory meal plan would affect the amount of donation dollars given to the university each year.
"That is unknown (if donations will decrease), but it is our intention to be a great partner to the university," McCollum said.
McCollum said their board of directors will carefully review Adams' proposal and analyze the possible repercussions for students and the foundation.
RHA said they would not support the current draft of the meal plan and gave their suggestions to Adams.
Under the current plan, the burden rests on students living in residence halls to pay for the operations of a facility that all students use, said Ted Theodorou, RHA president.
"We are against any plan where the residents are the sole contributor," said Theodorou, a political science senior.
ASUA will present their alternative to Adams' plan at 5 p.m. in the Rincon Room in the student union.