UW students push back against new university dining policy

MADISON, Wis. - A change in policy at UW-Madison dining halls is sparking backlash on campus. Incoming students living in dorms next year will be required to purchase a meal plan.

“In the past, it has just been load the card as you go, and we would receive feedback from parents of students saying, ‘Well, how much do I need to budget for the meal plan,’” Jeff Novak, director of university housing, said.

Novak said the change will help students and parents budget for dining costs by giving them a guideline. The minimum amount is $1,400, which will cover about nine meals per week.

“We see that our students, on average, spend over $1,400 on the eateries here on campus and felt that was a good baseline point to start our plan,” he said.

But the change isn’t being well-received by students. Associated Students of Madison, a student advocate group, said administration made this decision without student input.

“We were never told by administration or university housing that they were even considering implementing this huge change to how students purchase food and eat on this campus,” Jacqueline Beaulieu, ASM shared governance campaign director, said.

ASM said because some students have dietary restrictions or affordability issues, there should not be a mandated minimum amount spent at university dining halls.

Novak said the money wouldn’t have to be paid up front; students would have the option to make quarterly payments. He said the university would preload cards of students waiting on financial aid. According to Novak, even with the new plan, UW still has the lowest rates in the Big Ten for dining options.

Still, students want the dining plan overturned.

“This policy needs to be rescinded immediately. This is not in the best interest of students. It’s under the guise of benefitting students and parents, but parents and students are not a fan,” Deena Whitwam, ASM shared governance chair, said.

UW Housing’s website explains that money loaded onto the card is not transferrable or refundable, but funds would carry over from semester to semester.

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