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BOG: Dining hall questions explained

Megan O'Neil | Tuesday, November 4, 2003

Dining hall manager Kevin Kirwan explained the various meal plan options available to Saint Mary’s students and broke down operation costs in an in-depth presentation for board members at Monday’s BOG meeting.

The new dining hall and an additional meal plan option has resulted in much confusion among students, said Kirwan. He outlined the three dining options available to students: the Carte Blanche, Option 14 and Block 125 meal plans.

The first two were available to students last year, but Block 125 was created over the summer with the help of a student survey.

The newest meal plan option provides a student with 125 meals in the dining hall per semester. It also includes an additional $140 in “munch money” to spend at any of the campus food services such as the dinning hall, Dalloway’s or the Café a la Cart. If the student eats all of her meals before the conclusion of the semester, Kirwan explained, she can purchase additional meals in ten-meal increments for $25.

With Block 125, students can spend a meal on a guest at the dining hall, which is not an option under the other two plans.

Kirwan detailed the costs of operating food services on campus and addressed officers’ questions about supposed price discrepancies between the three dining options.

The flat rate to operate the dining hall, Kirwan said, is an inflexible $2,000 per student, not including the cost of food.

“If a group of students decides not to come to the dining hall, does that mean I can turn off some of the lights?” Kirwan asked. “Does it mean that I can dial down the temperature? No.”

Rather, the variables in price lie in the number of meals students consume. In creating the meal plans, Kirwan explained, he must determine an average number of meals a student eats at the dining hall in a week. He noted that students on the Option 14 plan only eat an average of nine meals in the dining hall, while it is expected that students on the Block 125 plan will use all of their allotted meals.

Students need to understand that these numbers must be reconciled, Kirwan said, and that is why it may appear that inequalities in meal plan costs still exist.

The improvement in the standard of food has resulted in a slight increase in costs from last year.

“We are trying to train our staff to produce restaurant quality food,” Kirwan said. “That is our ultimate goal.”

There are small things that students can do to reduce food services costs, said Kirwan, such as refraining from removing things from the dining hall.

“We spent $8,000 last year on plastic cups,” Kirwan said. “That is a huge unnecessary expense.”

He concluded by telling board members that student input is taken seriously. Food services will continue to improve existing meal plan options, and create new ones to accommodate a wide range of student needs, he said.

In other BOG news

– Board members voted to provide $250 in co-sponsorship money to help the Saint Mary’s Peacemakers club bring defense attorney Cyndy Short to campus to speak. Short, a 1984 graduate of the College, has successfully defended more than 50 capital offense clients. She will speak Monday, November 10, at 12 pm in Stapleton Lounge.

– BOG approved the Student Government Association’s Chicago bus policy at Monday’s meeting. In response to student interest, SGA will sponsor monthly bus trips to downtown Chicago being December 6th. While the transportation is free of cost, students are required to return to campus on the chartered bus. Student clubs also have the option of reserving seats for club-related activities in the Chicago area.