The Blue Bucks system is a University program that allows students to add money to their student account for use at off-campus dining venues. Systems similar to this can be found at universities across the country. The only difference between the University of Michigan and peer institutions is the significantly fewer options that our students have when using Blue Bucks. Recently, LSA Student Government members traveled to three schools in Ohio to tour their unions and recreation centers. All three of the schools had a system similar to Blue Bucks, but unlike the University, each school had multiple off-campus venues that accepted the Blue Bucks equivalent. One school even had a local grocery store that accepted the currency.
Expanding Blue Bucks has been a project that LSA Student Government has worked on for many semesters. As LSA-SG representatives, it’s our duty to fight for student rights. Since dining halls are closed on Saturday nights, students must eat at off-campus venues. But they have limited options when picking a place to eat. It would be nice if these students did not have to go to the Michigan Union, Pierpont Commons or the Michigan League week after week to eat dinner.
And expanding Blue Bucks to more off-campus dining venues would benefit students by providing them with healthy alternatives to dining at University unions. Many of the dining options in the unions aren’t very healthy. Expanding Blue Bucks to more off-campus dining venues will not only provide more options to students overall, but healthier options as well.
Restaurants and other venues across campus have been resistant to the idea because they fear a loss in profit. If a restaurant accepts Blue Bucks, they have to give part of their profit back to the University. This concern, although valid, is unproven.
Now, LSA-SG is taking a new approach. We are polling the LSA student body through our student government ballot questions to determine the projected increase in off-campus dining by students if Blue Bucks were accepted at more venues. The question is two-fold. The first part asks how many times students currently eat at off-campus venues per week. The second part asks how many more times students would eat at off-campus venues per week if Blue Bucks were accepted more widely. This will allow us to see if there would be an actual increase in off-campus eating. If the data shows an increase, we can take the results to local restaurants and prove to them that accepting Blue Bucks is a smart business decision.
We recognize that there are other factors that must be considered before actively pursuing this project, such as the loss of revenue for University Unions and dining halls. But we cannot make any headway on this project without the student voice. Please vote for your student government representatives, but also vote on the Blue Bucks ballot question. Your responses can help LSA-SG make progress in getting this changed. Let’s catch up to other schools in the country by expanding our Blue Bucks to many more off-campus dining venues.
Steven Benson is the LSA-SG President, Caroline Canning is the LSA-SG Student Life Committee Chair and Carly Goldberg is the LSA-SG Vice President.