Next fall, Oberlin students won't be flocking to meals at Campus Dining Service nearly as often as they do now. A new set of meal plans, devised by Residential Life and Services in response to a recent student survey, provides more choices for where and when they have their meals.
Replacing the old plan are three options: the standard 21 meals a week; 14 board meals and $200 worth of Flex Dollars -- which can be used at a new convenience store to be installed in Wilder this summer --or seven board meals and $400 in Flex Dollars, available only to students living off campus.
The student body's reaction revamping the Campus Dining Services has ranged from outrage and dissatisfaction to ambivalence or relief. Many who are upset foresee that if students are allowed to take out their meals in disposable containers, the college's waste would increase considerably. Student environmental groups want to help the College work toward reducing consumption; recycling assistants hope to have enough time to find more environmentally-conscious alternatives before the plan goes into effect.
A new bakery/cafe is to be located in Wilder where the snack bar is now. Because town/gown relations are important to many students, some fear that the arrangement will keep students on campus, causing local downtown shops and cafes to lose customers. These students are recommending to administration that Flex Dollars be transferable to local businesses -- if not immediately, then at some time in the future.
In the past, the opportunity for the lucky 100 seniors who won the lottery to "get off board" for a year and live off campus, was perceived as an important step in the transition from college to post-graduation life. The new plan calls for the elimination of the annual lottery, and will affect students living off campus, who may prefer to handle their own dining arrangements without returning to campus for meals or to shop at the convenience store.
Many students are satisfied with the meal plan changes. The dining halls will no longer operate under short and strict meal times with little flexibility for students who have busy and erratic schedules. When flexible dining hours are offered, and with the option of choosing only one meal or two a day in dining halls, students can eat what they want when they want. The Flex Dollars appeal to those who favor take-home food, and they can walk into the convenience store buy anything at any time.
The overall response to these sweeping changes remain to be seen. By next fall, college dining might well be a very different experience. Stay tuned.
-AUDRA ABT '01