On Wednesday, Sept. 7, dozens of disgruntled Stony Brook University students gathered in a crowd outside of West Side Dining to protest the new meal plan system that started this fall semester.
Rain pattered, a lawn mower roared and five University Police Department cars lined the area. But still, these students refused to let their dissatisfaction be left unheard.
Under the new dine-in system, most dining halls across the campus no longer offer students the option to buy individual items. Instead, students need to pay a predetermined amount, regardless of how much food they eat. The dining halls that practice this new system are Union Commons, Roth Cafe and West Side Dining.
Nicholas Puleio, a sophomore biochemistry student who organized the demonstration, handed out a letter at the protest addressed to Sodexo, Stony Brook’s food service provider.
The letter, which criticized Sodexo’s “gross behavior” towards students, outlined the students’ main concerns and called for Sodexo to increase the variety of ethnically diverse food, increase options for those with allergies or religious needs and improve the overall quality of food. The letter also called for the return of the former dining system, which only used meal points, not swipes.
Daniel Podolsky, one of the participants in the protest, expressed deep annoyance at the new system.
“Three things happen every year: campus dining gets more expensive, dining halls become nicer and the quality of the food gets worse,” he said.
One of the other complaints students had regarding this system was that they cannot take food out of the dining halls. Additionally, they cannot see the food options until after the pay the entrance fee at the door.
“I avoid eating at the Union, Roth, and West Side,” Rajiv Ramlal, a sophomore political science major, said. “You can’t walk into these places without using a swipe or paying the fee.”
He added, “This new system prevents people from socializing with other students.”
The students contend that the food options are much too limited and expensive.
“Students can’t afford to eat and cannot perform well academically,” Sarah Blumrich, a Cinema and Cultural Studies major, said. “How does Stony Brook expect students to go ‘far and beyond,’ if it can’t even feed them properly?” She said while mocking Stony Brook University’s new slogan.
“I moved off campus because of this new dining system,” Dandan Prager, a senior Psychology major, said. “I don’t like the idea of Stony Brook controlling my budget. I used to be able to spend less on some days, and more on other days, but now I can’t do that.”
What was supposed to be a peaceful sit-in protest quickly turned in a full-fledged march. The number of students participating ranged between 10 and 12. They passed through West Side Dining without paying the mandatory entrance fee and congregated at a single table.
“Swipe to Wipe!” erupted the table, referencing the fact that in West Side Dining requires students to swipe their card or pay the entrance fee even if the students only have to use the restroom.
“Not only has the food quality gone down, but now we have to pay to use the bathroom,” Brooklyn Ramos, another dissatisfied protester, said.
Several other chants broke out before the protesters decided to march throughout the campus, right through the Involvement Fair, a fair that provides students with opportunities to join clubs and become more involved with campus lifetime.
The protesters moved through the crowded campus “It’s Time to Go, Sodexo!” they yelled as they made their way through the throngs of people.
When the clock struck 2:30, the demonstrators dispersed quietly and quickly, trying to get to their next class in time.