When the College unveiled its new meal plan some Oberlin students responded with protest and petition. Others said they welcomed the changes.
The College's new dining plan will be cheaper and more flexible than its current model, more like dining plans at other colleges. It will allow students to choose from three different meal options that each cost $200 less than this year's $3,192 yearly fee. But some say the new meal plan might also cut down on local business and offer students less value for their money.
Construction will begin this summer, heralding the implementation of the College's 10-year plan for housing and dining renovations. Each summer, the College will target specific buildings for improvement.
The College called on its food provider, Marriot Food Services, to create a more flexible meal plan and improve the operation of the snack bar. After conducting extensive student surveys in the Spring 1997, Marriot delivered a proposal which will reconfigure on-campus dining and increase board options.
Assistant to the President Diana Roose said, "The basic message on the new dining proposals is that after extensive surveying of students last year, it became clear that what students want is lower cost, more meal plan flexibility and a better variety of healthier food."
The first dining option offers students the same plan they have now, the standard 21 meals a week. The second meal plan allows students to eat 14 meals a week in a dining hall and put 200 "flex dollars" per semester onto their One Cards. Flex dollars can be used to buy meals or other items at dining halls or Wilder.
The third option is only available to off-campus students and allows them to eat seven on-campus meals a week and have $800 flex dollars. The third option will replace the off-board lottery.
Yet a petition circulated by a group of students asks the College to postpone instituting the new meal plan until the year after next. Those who drafted the petition said the new meal plan has not been finalized enough. They also say the College has not sought enough student opinions.
Junior Sara Marcus said, "This meal plan could have disastrous ramifications. At this point it's really enough to say we should postpone the meal plan to allow for a more open conversation among the people in Res. Life, town businesses, representatives of student employees and the students, because this is all being done on the altar of student wishes."
Owners of local busineses are also concerned, saying that the flex dollars will reduce downtown business. The closing of five downtown businesses this year has lead some merchants to believe that more collaboration between College and town is needed.
Despite doubts, some students look forward to the changes. Sophomore Robby Armaline said, "I really dig this new idea. I don't see anything wrong with it."
An overhaul of Dascomb is the focal point of the proposal. According to the plan, Dascomb will feature a grill, pizza and a carving station modeled after fast-food giant Boston Market. Dascomb's hours of operation will be greatly expanded, allowing students with tighter schedules to find more time to eat.
"If they're vegan or vegetarian, or they don't want to eat something taken out of the refrigerator and grilled, there's something for them," said Sandra Hougland, manager of Residential Life.
Residential Life staffers hope Dascomb's innovations will reduce heavy student traffic in Wilder Snack Bar, where the line for breakfast spills out the door at 10 a.m.
According to the new plan, Wilder Snack Bar will stop serving grill items and feature a new bakery/cafe. It will even have a new name: Decafe, and sport a new look.
There is also talk of turning Talcott into a family-style dining hall.
Although some say they'll miss being able to pick up their mail and food in the same building, first-year Morgan Williams likes the idea of relocating the Snack Bar.
"It would be kind of nice to have the Snack Bar be more central," Williams said. "The plan sounds interesting, but I'm pretty content."
Assistant Director of Residential Life and Services Michele Gross said the proposed renovations are interim solutions desgined to meet the College's needs until a new student union can be built. Dascomb will be stocked with portable equipment in order to ease any future changes.
Marriot is slated to be the College's food provider for the next two years.
In addition, a series of housing renovations are slated to begin this summer. Harkness and Fairchild's traditional locks are going to be replaced with new, hotel-like ones which can be accessed via One Cards. If the transition goes well, other dorms will be converted.
Other upgrades include bringing fire alarms up to code, complying with the American Disabilities Act, fixing lighting, adding new furniture, installing recycled carpeting on the floors and painting the interior.
McDascomb (above): Dascomb will have a bit of an identity crisis next year when it is converted to a food court serving fast foods of all sorts. (file photo)
Pasta la vista (below): The snackbar will become the Decafe next year, selling grocery products to students on Flex-dollar acounts. (file photo)
Copyright © 1998, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 126, Number 24, May 22, 1998
Contact us with your comments and suggestions.