Finding hair in one’s soup, waiting a long time for food, and judging yourself for buying a stale peanut butter and jelly sandwich for nearly four dollars is nothing new. Not to mention that eating healthy is almost impossible on this campus.
But what is new this semester is the meal swipe and dining dollar system, which further restricts students’ options in every way imaginable. Together, the Faculty Student Association, Campus Dining and Sodexo made a groundbreaking discovery in how to evolve an already overpriced dining experience into an overcrowded and confusing hellhole.
Meals are offered at places like Roth Café, West Side Dining and the Union, where you need a swipe just to enter. An “unlimited” meal plan accessing the aforementioned three places costs $2,400 while dining dollars are utilized at other places like the Student Activities Center and Jasmine. With other plans you have a limited number of swipes, essentially making you choose between a full meal and precious Starbucks to power you through your 8:30 a.m. physics lecture. There isn’t a residential semester plan costing less than $2,000 either, which is comparable to tuition at most community colleges.
On one hand it is good that messing up one week does not ruin your entire semester anymore, but it turns dining into a task. The first response I got from my old suitemate when I asked her how it is being a resident on campus now: “Fucking awful.”
“I’m fucking moving off campus. This shit is ridiculous,” she told me. “I don’t need to pay almost tuition to eat here, along with the high dorm prices, anyway.”
While technically someone can get a meal on the run, the options are limited and the FSA recommends having more dining dollars for flexibility sake. But even worse is that if you can’t swipe, there are many places you can’t go into. To get into West Side Dining, Roth or the Union Commons costs $6.75 at breakfast, $9.50 at lunch, $9.95 at dinner, $7.95 for late night and $9.50 for brunch- even if you’re not hungry. It’s literally putting a price on socializing.
“I went to visit a friend the other day and I wasn’t even allowed in West [Side] Dining because I wasn’t hungry and wasn’t about to pay $10 to sit and watch my friend eat,” my friend Maddy Marcus, a Stony Brook alum, said. “The guy basically told me I had to wait until my friend was finished eating, which makes absolutely no sense to me.”
Freshmen and sophomores dorming at Stony Brook University, hoping to get a pleasant campus experience, have no choice but to get one of those meal plans and follow these rules. The cherry atop this sweet pile of bullshit is that they cannot have a car in residential lots without a special circumstance to escape from campus dining.
Unfortunately, “dying/going broke from this overpriced university’s stupid meal plan scheme” probably won’t work as an excuse either. You’re trapped on campus unless you have older or commuter friends with spare time. And even these full-time commuter friends are burdened with high prices and few options.
“As a commuter, you pay for meal points that you now can’t use at half the dining places on campus unless you want to spend close to a grand,” another student told me. “Honestly this new policy is ridiculous.”
Although I’m only on campus twice a week, it’s hard to miss seeing how terrible this is. Lines literally go out the door at West Side Dining and the Union Commons, where I routinely ate last semester. Dining spaces are no longer great places to socialize, thanks to overcrowding from students who actually need to eat and being barred from entry unless you pay. Several pictures have shown that even something so basic as decent portion sizes aren’t being met, with students having essentially paid ten dollars for a chicken sandwich consisting of two chicken nuggets, lettuce and a flavorless bun. There are also several complaints of dining outlets running out of food, forcing students to find alternatives.
“I know the portions are supposed to be smaller, but I’m pretty sure two ice cube size chunks of pork doesn’t count for anything. Literally two chunks amongst rice and some veggies,” one commuter wrote on the now deluged Campus Dining Feedback Facebook page.
So when Stony Brook says it goes “far beyond,” does it refer to greed, ignorance or unfairness? It preaches excellence and reasonable tuition, but can’t even create a plan that will make it easy for students to get enough food to function and study well.
Somehow, my soon to be alma mater has managed to ignore students’ reasonable concerns about eating on campus every single year I’ve been here. This is *far beyond* excusable.