By Megan Freeman, Oct. 12, 2021
Cal Poly Pomona’s Foundation Dining Services began to enforce limits on previously unlimited meal swipes on Sept. 18. The sudden policy reversal was met with outrage by student residents who are now limited to one meal swipe in dining locations like the Vista Market and Fitbites at Vista.
Guillermo Washington, an industrial engineering student; Christian Enkerlin, a business management student; and Jacklyn Nee, a communications major, launched a Change.org petition late last month to reverse this policy which has since garnered more than 900 signatures.
“I’m paying so much for this plan, and I’m only getting $7 a day,” said Washington, referring to the dollar amount of each swipe. “I actually have to pay with my card to buy food at the Vista Market. Why am I paying this much money for something that I’m not even using?”
According to Dining Services Director Aaron Neilson, unlimited meal exchanges were never supposed to be an option for students. Meal exchanges, which is exchanging a meal swipe at a retail location on campus, were originally only to be used at Vista Market, and these meal exchanges would only be available for students on the Suite Flex plans.
Due to the unpredictability of COVID-19, Neilson decided to keep exchanges open for more retail locations than just the Vista Market. Due to human error, with the cashiering system, unlimited meal plan holders gained unlimited meal exchanges.
“The real intent of that unlimited plan is to eat at Centerpointe,” said Neilson. “You can come and go as you please; you can come 10 times a day and just grab an apple. It was meant for an athlete or a healthy person who wanted to snack frequently throughout the day; that was really the target for that meal plan.”
Given the unlimited plan was only meant for Centerpointe when the system opened, students using unlimited meal exchanges at other retail locations takes away resources from Centerpointe, according to Neilson. There was one incident where someone used their unlimited meal swipe plan in one transaction totaling to $50.
Yet, more than 900 students have now signed on to protest Dining Services’ decision, nearing the petition’s 1,000-signature goal.
“I personally feel taken advantage of because I paid for the unlimited plus meal (points), so I don’t even get a single swipe at the Vista Market and the fact that the Vista Market is overpriced to begin with; meal points don’t last very long,” said Enkerlin.
The meal plans range from $1,733 to $2,795 per semester. The Suite Flex plan, the cheapest of the plans, allows students to receive 70 meal swipes with 750 meal points per semester. Meal points are points one can use to buy additional food items around campus such as boba at Lollicup and can be used at other retail locations.
Unlimited meal plans are plans where students can get as much food as they please from Centerpointe. Students also have the option of 140, 180 and a 220-meal plan.
Washington, Enkerlin and Nee joined the Inter-Hall Council in a meeting last week to voice their concerns and they are all hopeful that they will be met in the middle with the IHC and Dining Services.
“By the end of this we just want to work with the staff to try and find a solution,” said Nee. “We have ideas in mind, and we want to maybe try to create a system where you get to use three or five swipes a day, not just one swipe a day so you’re not limited, especially for the people who pay a bunch of money for unlimited. I just think it’s really ridiculous.”
Neilson plans to talk to University Housing Services and leadership to come to some sort of compromise. He would like to have an open dialogue and expressed remorse for how sudden the policy changed.
He is also mindful of students living in traditional halls, since they are far from Centerpointe; this was another reason why exchanges were modified to include more retail locations. He said he is open to including meal exchanges at the market in all plans except for the unlimited plan.
With a shift back to campus life, Neilson is pushing for Centerpointe to be utilized just as much as retail locations on campus. Through it all, he wants to keep an open communication with students.
“I know that it felt abrupt, and I own that,” said Neilson. “I also own the Centerpointe experience, as it is, is not where we want it to be, and I can make excuses all day long with staffing, supply issues and facilities issues, but know that our team is working to make that experience even more amazing than it currently is. I want to start fresh today, and we’re going to commit to making things amazing.”
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