Mayhem with Meal Plans

Caroline Wilkerson, Copy Editor~

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On September 22, 2018, an email thread was started by a number of University of Lynchburg students expressing their concerns regarding 2018-2019 meal plans and dining hall hours.

Travis Carr started the thread saying, “I would just like to draw attention to a situation involving the dining services that has become increasingly annoying over the last few weeks. Myself and several of my peers here at Lynchburg are quite irritated by the amount of money we were required to spend this year on a meal plan. 5,000 dollars is a huge price for unlimited swipes that most of us would have forgone under the previous meal plan setup.”

Other students contributed with similar responses, Sarah Balkcum said, “With my schedule I am unable to eat at the dining hall,” and Jeremy Block said, “I know college is a business, but I didn’t know it was a scam.”

According to The University of Lynchburg website, the new plan consists of unlimited meal swipes in Burton Dining Hall, $200 in Lynchburg Express funds, six meal exchanges per week, and eight guest privileges per semester. The total plan cost is $2,500 per semester.

Hayward Guernard, Vice President and Dean for Student Development, said, “A lot of planning went into the meal plan decision. It did not happen overnight.”

Shawn Dearden, Operations Manager of Dining Services, echoed Guernard’s saying, “I met with a variety of people before this plan was implemented.” Some of these people included, the Student Government Association, the Board of Trustees, and even some Residence Hall directors to get direct feedback from the students themselves.

Guernard said, “Most of the changes that have occurred over time with our meal planning have been 100 percent for our students…back when I first started, back in the ‘90’s, there were 3 options; there weren’t any meal exchanges…over time working with students, they have helped make changes to the meal plan to make it more cost effective, convenient, and overall meet the needs of the students.” The meal plan is “designed for the students.”

Dearden added, “The unlimited meal plan is something that has become very popular in our industry and in many colleges and universities. It takes a lot of the “guesswork” out. This is my 26th year at the University and we have seen how things have evolved, and have seen some of the negatives of the semester block plans.”

According to Dearden, The dining hall services tries to please every single student that comes through The University of Lynchburg to the best of their abilities. They try to provide a variety for students including international, vegan, and vegetarian options. Furthermore, they incorporate functions such as Hibachi night, Late Night Breakfast, and Harry Potter themed days, to help include diversity in meals.

Overall, the meal plans are constantly evolving in order to better fit the needs of the students. Both Guernard and Dearden encourage students to express their feelings and concerns. However, Guernard added, “The method and manner in which we say things determine the outcome.”

Students can voice their concerns on campus through the use of  the suggestion box in the dining hall, an online comment section for the dining hall, or by speaking with the dining hall staff.