UA should have more Meal Plan options

President Witt has recently announced that he wants the University’s population to grow to 35,000 by 2020. He’s also said that there’s no real urgent need to grow in areas of facilities.

Ignoring how massively, enormously insane such a statement seems in the areas of residence halls, parking spaces and classrooms to most anyone who is actually at the University as a student, and taking into account the fascination the University seems to have with replacing instead of adding, there is one area where this news should be especially worrisome to students: Food.

At the peak of Bama Dining facilities that took Meal Plans, there were three places to eat breakfast, five places to eat lunch, and four places to eat dinner (though one of those changed to take money plus a Meal Plan). There was even a place that stayed open until 3 in the morning, which was great for those with late jobs or classes, and the other places open for dinner didn’t close until 10 p.m.

Now, we have two places for breakfast, four places for lunch and two for dinner, if you exclude the meal plan plus $10 option at Bryant Sports Grill. Dinners end at 8:30 p.m. at those two locations, and one of them opens back up from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Yes, I know Bama Dining has been opening Dining Dollars locations all over the place. Good for them. But with only $300 assigned to Dining Dollars, and with the rather steep prices of all the items, that money tends to disappear quite quickly. I don’t think mine lasted through October, thanks to the convenient location of Stewarts Corner right above my first class on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. But it became suddenly quite inconvenient when all that money disappeared and the number of places I could eat lunch at 10:30 a.m. were limited and located a bit distantly.

And Bama Dining has been pumping out those Dining Dollar areas as of late. There’s a station at the CrimsonRide hub, the second on-campus Buffalo Phil’s in Lakeside Dining Hall and the new to this year Stewarts Corner. They even have those little Bama Dining carts running around in some places, like outside of Rowand-Johnson Hall. More and more places to use those $300, and whatever extra cash you want to spend. Don’t see why you would, however, considering how much cheaper it is to buy similar, more and often better food right on the Strip.

As for Meal Plans? Well, I guess you’re hosed if you want more places for those to be used at. And with every freshman being required to buy Meal Plans, a planned growth of 5,000 in the next 10 years and people already being forced to stand and eat in several dining halls, there is a desperate need for more areas that use Meal Plans.

So, I’m calling you out, Bama Dining. I know that over the past two-plus years you’ve probably grown rather tired of my doing so, but you never seem to really pay attention. Dining hall qualities have grown worse. Instead of improving the halls, there have just been more and more “special events,” brief flashes in the pan where quality kinda-sorta maybe improves. And now, dining halls have just been disappearing, with no discernable reasoning.

Why do we need a third Buffalo Phil’s on or around campus instead of a diner or dining hall? Yeah, replacing Lakeside Diner with Maea was a bad idea that seemed to backfire massively, but at least you eventually gave Maea Meal Plan options. Taking that away for a repetitive iteration of a restaurant that is, frankly, already overpriced and not immensely outstanding was an even worse move.

Why does Burke Dining Hall need to close at 8:30 p.m. instead of 10 p.m.? It makes some semblance of sense to close Lakeside Dining Hall at 8:30 p.m. in order to have it retool for the late night food, but Burke has nothing to do with that. Not as far as I, or anyone else I’ve talked to, can tell.

It’s immensely distressing to me that there is a trend of opening more and more places to just siphon off student cash for quality that’s been slipping further and further over the years instead of an actual attempt at conversation with the student body about what they want and need. And with 5,000 more students planned to enter over the next 10 years, which will most likely become 7,000 over the next 5, that issue is only going to grow into an even more horrendous beast.

Bama Dining, you’ve got the monopoly on food service on campus. You automatically get every freshman to pay you $2,544 per year. So, instead of grabbing at even more student money, why not do some amount of good with that monopoly and serve the student body? Otherwise, students may do more than just boycott one restaurant, as they did to Maea last year. They may grow wise and see their money is far better spent at local businesses that care about quality and customers.

Sean Randall is the assistant lifestyles editor for The Crimson White.

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