By Jennifer Amsler
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, September 30, 2004
Freshmen who live on campus might be forced to dine at the student unions if the UA adopts a mandatory meal plan.
The UA is considering a mandatory meal plan for incoming first-year students living in dorms that would tack on about $1,800 to $2,200 extra in tuition, said Nathan Bell, Associated Students of the University of Arizona senator.
UA student regent Ben Graff said while the plan is still up in the air, the university is definitely weighing the options, and if approved, might begin with next year's incoming freshmen.
The plan would apply to freshmen living on campus, he said.
"In black and white, this would be a form of increased tuition," said Graff, a second-year law student.
Arizona Student Unions director Dan Adams said he is discussing feedback with students and is looking at many different options, including an all-you-can-eat plan and use of the CatCard at off-campus restaurants.
Adams said he is consulting student groups about the meal plan, but wouldn't give examples.
Northern Arizona University implemented a mandatory meal plan of this year for all on-campus freshmen.
Arizona Board of Regents officials decided last month to require freshmen living on campus at NAU to pay for at least 10 meals per week, which costs students an extra $2,515 per year.
Graff has spoken with ASUA and residence hall leadership about the plan and hopes to get as much feedback from students as he can before ABOR makes a decision.
"This is not a sneak attack," Graff said. "It will not be accomplished without student involvement."
Students will be instrumental in voicing concerns and could affect the final decision, he said.
Graff wants to make sure a mandatory meal plan for freshmen would be in the best interest of students, and not just a moneymaker for the student union.
"The motivation for a mandatory meal plan has to help students save money and get nutritious food," Graff said.
He acknowledged the fact that a required meal plan ignores freshmen who opt to cook in their dorms or eat off-campus.
"Now, we have a good relationship with eateries off campus," Graff said. "I'm not sure what message it will send to them if we require freshmen to eat on campus."
Graff is also concerned the proposed plan will affect students who don't yet have a voice on campus.
"Current students must represent future students by asking themselves, 'Is this something that would have helped me or hurt me as a freshman?'" he said.
Graff said the regents must consider freshmen involved in the greek system who might already have a meal plan with their fraternity or sorority.
Graff said he hopes freshmen in the greek system would be able to be exempt from the mandatory plan, so they wouldn't have to pay twice.
Another concern is space in the student unions, Graff said.
"Currently, there are hefty waits at lunchtime and I'm not sure the unions have the capacity to mandate freshmen to eat on campus," Graff said.
Graff is concerned ABOR will implement the same plan at UA without considering differences between the universities.
"UA is a completely different animal than NAU," Graff said.
He said NAU is a much smaller campus within a smaller surrounding community, and reactions from the UA students and community might be very different.
Biochemistry sophomore Renee Yu said the mandatory meal plan would force freshmen to always eat in the union.
"That's just wrong, especially with the food in the union," Yu said.
She said in order for a mandatory meal plan to win students' approval, the union would need to provide better food at cheaper prices.
Yu said she is not sure she would even support the plan if food prices were reduced by half.
"Hopefully they won't make it mandatory," Yu said. "I would just feel bad for freshmen."
Luke Howell, a media arts senior, said a mandatory meal plan might not be such a bad idea.
"A lot of freshmen don't eat the way they should," he said. "Freshmen take the easy way out with fast food."
Although fast food restaurants are available in the student union, Howell said the union provides many healthy options.