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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Dining hall decisions

<ir="ltr">Carleton requires that every student living in a dorm be on a meal plan. The reasons for this are two-fold, as stated on the meal plan website. “[The policy] is grounded in both principle—that a major feature of living at a residential college is table sharing—and economic practicality: because we equip and staff a full dining program, we need students to participate in the program to pay for this service.” A reasonable statement at the outset, but under closer scrutiny the first is certainly debatable, and the second claim does not hold up at all.

Dining hall conversations certainly are a valuable part of the college experience. They’re a great chance to meet new people and to learn from your peers. However, reducing the minimum meal plan requirements would also offer benefits.

Lower meal plan requirements likely result in increased involvement in the community. Currently the campus is somewhat isolated, and it is rare for students to venture into town and get to know the larger Northfield community. Reducing the number of meals would mean that students are more likely to go out to eat, go to the grocery store, and generally be more involved in the community. Students would also have to learn to be more self-sufficient, planning their own meals or where to go out to eat and learning to cook, instead of just taking advantage of the pre- made food. The skills that these experiences would develop would serve them well in the future as they transition into being completely independent.

A final advantage would be a lower cost to students. While Carleton tries to ensure that all students are able to afford their education, paying for college is still a large burden for many students and their families. Changing the policy on meal plans would give students the ability to supplement dining hall meals with simpler and cheaper alternatives, allowing them and their family to save more money.

With all this in mind, the financial implications can be studied. In a meeting with Fred Rogers, the treasurer of the college, he said that Carleton tries to keep the cost of dining services roughly equal to the intake from student’s meal plan, but that it is difficult to get them to match up exactly.

As a nonprofit institution, Carleton publicly publishes its’ yearly financial statements. According to these records, Carleton spends $6,917,796 per year for Bon-Appetit to provide dining services for the college. However, the college takes in $9,735,768 from all students in dorms, meaning that almost 3 million dollars of student spending on meal plans does not go toward dining services.

Bon-Appetit is not the college’s only expense for dining though though. Also a factor are utilities and maintenance cost for the LDC and Burton, as well as the cost of paying back the loan used to pay for the construction of the LDC in 2000. Even factoring these in however, there is still a difference of over 1.5 million, $1,520,436 to be exact. While there may be some other costs not included in these projections, this is a massive discrepancy and not at all in line with what students are paying for.          

Next year’s budget is already set, so no further changes can be made to it. Based on this evidence however, it certainly seems like the college should take a close look at its’ dining policies going forward, and try to provide students with meal plans that more closely match what we are paying.

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