EDITORIAL: Let them eat: Students should have the right to choose when to use meal plans

Editorial cartoon 4.5.11

Herald staff

The issue: The restrictions on how many meal plans a student can use daily may lead to them wasting their money.

Our stance: Students pay for their meal plans and should have the freedom to use them any way they choose.

As university policy dictates, freshmen who are required to live on campus must purchase a meal plan of 10, 14 or 19 meals per week for the academic year. However, despite the number of meals they are entitled to, they can only use four swipes a day.

Though the Restaurant and Catering Group argues that the policy benefits students by managing their meal plans, meal plans are bought with students’ money and should be used at the individual’s discretion, even if they run out before the end of the week.

A part of the college experience is learning to be independent and gaining more responsibility. Allowing students to have unlimited meal plan use will give them practice in budgeting and decision-making. There are no dorm-wide wake-up calls or laundry services because students don’t need babysitters. Managing their food should be thought of the same way.

Aside from the lessons that could be gained, there are simple factors that should be considered.

In many instances, students have guests for the week; their younger siblings or friends from other schools may visit during their breaks. Or, students who live in dorms that do not close might spend more time on campus during holidays. In any case, though students can get four guest passes a semester, some days may call for more frequent meal plan use.

Oppositely, if a student needs to go out of town during the middle of the week, their remaining meals go to waste because they can’t use them all before they leave, nor is there a rollover option. Some professors cancel classes before holidays or breaks, giving students the chance to leave early, which also could cause meals to go unused.

Those things are not factored into the meal plan requirements, though they are very common. And since the meal plans are purchased at the beginning of the semester, WKU still gets the income, leaving only the student at a loss.

The Herald suggests that meal plan use be unlimited during the week, especially since the faculty and staff meal plans, which likely generate less money, have that freedom. Since WKU will not lose any money by allowing unlimited use, there is no viable reason to have such a rule in place.

Under the current restrictions, students can’t use meal plans for snacking during long days of classes and all-nighters, treating their visitors or even sharing their meal plan with a friend who might really need it.

This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Herald’s 10-member editorial board.