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The new meal swipe plan needs to be clarified

By Thresher Editorial Board     9/6/22 11:11pm

Over the summer, Rice Housing & Dining announced significant changes to the dining schedule and meal plan that went into effect at the start of the semester. The most notable change was the addition of a new meal time, affectionately known as “munch.” The other adjustment implemented the following change: “Re-entry to ANY servery requires a student to swipe to receive up to two entree plates again.”

First, we want to commend H&D for attempting to address an SA resolution passed last semester that called for “more flexible meal plan options.” Further, the implementation of this new meal period without causing an additional raise in meal plan price is greatly appreciated. But just a few short weeks into the semester, confusion around the new meal swipe and servery entry policies has overshadowed the improvements made to the meal plan overall.

Confusion began in the first week of classes, when most students understood the policy to mean that they could only receive one plate per swipe. Admittedly, that confusion could’ve been clarified by simply reading the H&D FAQ page. But then, during the second week of classes, college presidents attempted to clarify by saying, technically, students could retrieve their second plate from the cashier after exiting the servery and eating their initial meal. Students began to follow that guidance, but H&D cashiers seemed unaware of this policy in some instances, and confusion ensued.

Originally, we had planned to write this week’s editorial promoting our solution to the allocation of plates while regulating who can access the servery. We spoke to students, college presidents and staff, but it was only after speaking to David McDonald, the senior director of Rice housing and dining, that the policy became clear.

According to McDonald, students can reenter the servery as many times as they’d like for drinks and portions in smaller plates and bowls that are available throughout the servery. The only line that seems to explain that policy in the FAQ states “the swipe and plate(s) is the ticket to entry and once you have that it is all you care to eat.” We’re used to reading and interpreting campus policies, and we cannot connect that FAQ statement to the policy as McDonald explained it to us. 

We believe that the specifics of the meal swipe and servery entry policies were not made remotely clear. Students don’t know, college presidents don’t know and, by many accounts, H&D cashiers also do not fully understand these policies. 

The fact that it took a direct conversation with the senior director of housing and dining to clarify the servery entry policy is disappointing, to say the least. The policy, as it has been explained to us, is quite reasonable. But we call on David McDonald and H&D to send a campus-wide email clarifying the policy once and for all.

Editor’s Note: Thresher editorials are collectively written by the members of the Thresher’s editorial board. Current members include Ben Baker-Katz, Morgan Gage, Bonnie Zhao, Hajera Naveed, Nayeli Shad, Riya Misra, Michelle Gachelin, Daniel Schrager, Prayag Gordy and Brandon Chen. Editor-in-chief Morgan Gage recused herself from this editorial due to her reporting on the corresponding story in our news section. 

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