by Raquel Fletcher
It is certain that some students who live in dorm style residences are fed up with the University of Regina's mandatory non-refundable meal plan that costs them a minimum of $1,000 a semester.
Carla Ardell, in her second year, is one of these frustrated students. Originally from Prince Albert, Ardell came to the U of R at the beginning of this year for the Certificate in French as a Second Language offered by the French Institute.
After injuring her leg in the summer and needing to u se crutches, she is unable to drive. This and the fact she enjoyed her expierence at the Briercrest College residence in Caronport, where she studied her first year, prompted her to apply to La Residence.
Her handicap dorm room is all she needs and she likes the convience of being on campus, but her one grievance is that?“it sucks not being able to cook.”
“I’m not really a fan of the bulk, hot meals they serve at night, so I don’t spend enough money here," she said. "The thing that really frusterates me is that it’s compulsory - you have no choice to buy a meal card.”
Ardell says that instead of eating at the Aramark venues (meal cards aren't accepted at venues run by the Students' Union, such as the Lazy Owl or All Souped Up), she eats a lot of raw food that she keeps stored in her mini fridge, a much healthier option, she says than what is offered on campus.
Last semester, she only spent about $500 dollars. What she didn't spend got added to her meal card for this semester. If she doesn't spend the money by April, she loses it.
There are no refunds and no exceptions.
Judy Amundson, Director of Operations, Student Affairs said that the meal plan is necessary to ensure quality service. "We can't have a food service supplying to students, especially in the evening if students are not going to eat there."
She said that students are informed about the plan before they make their decision to stay in a dorm: "You know up front when you live in a dorm that you are going to have to accept the meal plan and you know that [the balance] is going to be carried over and in April it's done."
Both Amundson and Thomas Rush, Director of Food Services for Aramark, say they do their best to accomodate students with dietary restrictions or scheduling conflicts and that the policy is in line with most universities across Canada.
Students on meal plans are about ten percent of residents on campus. Students who live in dorms in La Residence or the North or South Towers are subject to the mandatory meal plan.
Dee Meyers, second year student in her second year in La Residence has more issues with eating at the meal card's designated places: “I do not like the meal plan at all. I find the meal plan is very expensive, the food variety isn’t great, and the nutrition of the
food is horrible.”
“Everything is so over-priced. If you want to buy healthy stuff, you are going to spend $1.25 on an apple or a $1.25 on an orange or banana.”
She too, eats raw food or microwavable care packages her mom makes her or she cooks for herself in a friend's apartment. At the beginning of the semester, she had $1300 on her meal card. She says that she will try to spend the money by buying her friends meals, but still doesn't feel good about the plan because not being refunded for the money she doesn't spend,
simply doesn't seem fair.
The meal plan, however, has not deterred Meyers from applying to live in residence again next year. The consolation may be food renovations next fall that according to Amundson, will give students more healthy options.