When I was a first-year student at the University three years ago, I thought the dorm cafeterias were a dream come true. My meal plan was nothing spectacular, just the basic Any 13 meals per week, but I was excited to have a different selection of dinners to choose from every night. Not only that, but every meal in the cafeteria was all-you-could-eat. Though my 13 meals only allowed me two meals per day, I could certainly eat enough for three meals in two sittings.

Lucky for me, I was a first-year student three years ago, because this year, Residential Dining Services changed its basic meal plan to include just 10 meals per week.

Of course, RDS doesn’t label the new meal plan the “Basic 10” plan. That would be too obvious. Instead, it calls it the “150 Block” plan, because students can use the 150 meals whenever they want throughout the semester.

The plan also includes $75 in Dining Dollars and $75 in Blue Bucks. The latter of these can be spent at cafeterias, residence hall retail dining centers, the Michigan League, the Michigan Union and numerous other places on campus. Dining Dollars can only be spent at RDS establishments, not the League or the Union. Together, these two new inventions replace Entrée Plus, the equivalent of what Blue Bucks are now.

That may seem like a lot, but is it enough to last a semester? Well, 150 meals divided by the 15 weeks per semester of classes equates to 10 meals per week. If you are generous and assume that the $150 in Dining Dollars and Blue Bucks will get you 30 meals at $5 a meal, you’re still only getting 12 meals per week. There’s no way to stretch that $150 into the 50 meals that were taken away from the plan.

Ten meals per week is not enough food. And I’m not being generous and assuming that the extra $150 is going to get me anywhere near the same amount of food I would have gotten at the cafeteria.

Worse yet, the 150 Block plan assumes students will ration their meals appropriately. They probably won’t. This way, when Thanksgiving rolls around, a lot of students may be surprised to find they’re almost out of meals. While the idea of giving students more freedom over their meal credits is a laudable goal, it comes with the problem of students running out of meals long before the semester ends.

If you lived in the residence hall last year, you can stick with your old Any 13 plan. But if you’re a new student and want 13 meals per week in the cafeteria, you will have to buy the Block 200 plan, which will cost you an extra $120 per semester.

What’s worst about the downsizing of RDS’s meal plans is that it comes on the heels of a major increase in room and board rates. Last year, residence hall room and board rates rose 4.9 percent. RDS has recently been touting the cost-saving benefits of the new Hill Dining Center, which replaced four cafeterias. But who’s benefiting from these savings? Certainly not the students, who are paying almost 5 percent more to live in the dorms and have to pay more to get the same number of meals they used to get.

RDS changed its meal plan system because of student demand for more non-cafeteria food options. Students wanted more dining options, which is understandable, but they didn’t want less food.

Pat Zabawa is an LSA senior.

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