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SMC students protest new Co-Exchange policy

Alison Meagher | Friday, August 27, 2010


Recent revisions to the Saint Mary’s Co-Exchange (Co-Ex) food services program have prompted College students to start a petition in opposition to the changes.
The former Co-Ex program allowed Saint Mary’s students to use one of their meal swipes to receive a ticket to eat dinner free of charge at one of Notre Dame’s dining halls. In recent years, seventy-five daily tickets were offered on a first-come, first-serve basis, according to an e-mail sent to Saint Mary’s students explaining the policy change.
Beginning this semester, Saint Mary’s students will only be able to apply for a Co-Ex ticket if their commitments to classes or organizations at Notre Dame prevent them from eating during normal Noble Family Dining Hall hours, according to the e-mail.
Saint Mary’s students who do not fit these criteria must pay full price to eat at Notre Dame.
“[The program] may exist for decades to come, but with a more focused intent. The program is not being eliminated,” Karen Johnson, vice president of student affairs at Saint Mary’s, said in an e-mail to the College student body. “It is being managed in a more efficient manner, so that Saint Mary’s students with a demonstrated need to be on Notre Dame’s campus at mealtime will get the Co-Ex tickets.”
According to Johnson, the former policy often prevented students with commitments at Notre Dame from obtaining tickets.
“[The change] is about better utilizing the tickets we distribute so the people who need them are getting them. We are happy to pay for the meals of students who have a demonstrated need to be on Notre Dame’s campus,” Johnson said.
Saint Mary’s and Sodexo, the College’s food service company, pay the for the number of Co-Ex meals each day because the meals are not included in an individual student’s meal plan, the e-mail said. According to the e-mail, the existing policy allowing Notre Dame students to eat at Saint Mary’s has not changed.
Sophomore Genevieve Spittler was a member of the Saint Mary’s swim team last year. Because practices were held at Notre Dame, she said she often missed College dining hall hours and used the Co-Ex policy to eat at Notre Dame. 
“We never had problems getting Co-Exes,” she said.
Caitlin Acherl, a junior in the Saint Mary’s ROTC program, agreed with Spittler.
“I understand the fact that [Saint Mary’s] needs to keep a budget,” she said. “However, I think they can limit the number of tickets while still keeping students happy.”
Several College students created a Facebook event titled “We Want Co-Ex’s Back” to protest to the new Co-Ex policy. Students who join the event are encouraged to leave their e-mail address and short paragraph about the how the revision of the Co-Ex policy affects them.
Two of the event’s creators — juniors Maggie Pinnick and Grace Kenesey, who is a member of The Observer’s photography staff — plan to present a 300-signature petition to College President Carol Ann Mooney.