UNA faculty and staff receive meal plan discount

Statistics calculated from meal plan costs found at una.sodexomyway.com

by Managing Editor Jasmine Fleming

Although UNA offers more student meal plan options this year, the number of student block plans, which charge more per meal than the faculty and staff block plans, decreased.

The faculty and staff meal plans offer the lowered rate to encourage them to communicate more with students, said Vice President for Business and Financial Affairs Clinton Carter.

“We like to encourage faculty and staff to interact with students as much as possible,” he said. “The more that they’re (in Towers) and interacting with (students) on a daily basis, having conversations and getting to know them, the quicker they can respond to any student concerns that arise.”

Last year, the university offered three student block plans, and this year there is one, according to the UNA Dining Services website.

The student block plan offers an alternative to meal plans in that students can use Towers Café meals any time during the semester, instead of having a certain number of meals each week.

The 2015-16 Towers Café prices for those who pay without a meal plan are $8 for breakfast, $9 for lunch and $10 for dinner, according to the website.

The 25 Block, which offers 25 meals and $275 dining dollars, costs $475 a semester, according to the website. The price per Towers meal averages $8.

Faculty and staff have two block plan options: A block of 25 meals for $100 and 10 meals for $40. The cost per meal with both plans averages $4.

There are currently 89 faculty and staff members using the two plan options, Carter said.

“It’s not used as much as we would like for it to be by faculty,” he said. “We would like for everyone to go over there if they can. But, you could essentially view it as an added benefit for the employees.”

English Professor Latasha Howell said many faculty members do not use the plans because Towers Café is far from the academic offices, she said.

“I’ve only eaten at Towers two times in the last seven years,” she said. “Options in the Commons and the GUC are closer and more convenient.”

Freshman Lori Gessini said she can understand why faculty and staff receive a discount, but she has her reservations on whether they should.

“(Faculty and staff) are working with us all day and have to put up with us,” she said. “But, I do feel like since we’re students and we already pay so much we should receive a discount as well. The pricing should have more of a fair balance.”

Although there are fewer block plan options, students can choose other non-weekly plans such as the Dining 500, which gives 500 dining dollars and five bonus meals, or the Dining 200, which has 200 dining dollars and two bonus meals.

The Business and Financial Affairs office and Sodexo Dining Services collaborated in deciding the meal plan prices and the restructuring of the offered plans, said Clinton Carter, vice president for Business & Financial Affairs.

“The university previously entered into a multiyear contract with (the previous meal plan prices) stipulated at the onset of the contract term,” he said in an email. “However, this past year both UNA and Sodexo mutually agreed that a new pricing structure would be set forth this year prior to the end of the original contract term.”

The additional meal and block plans are meant to make picking a plan simpler, Carter said.

“Many students had mentioned confusion around the number of options available and the differences between various plans,” he said in an email. “So, the university entered into numerous discussions with Sodexo to streamline the number of options available while increasing flexibility with additional dining dollars.”

The diversity of meal plan options has been a benefit to students, said junior Lebron King.

“Some people eat in the cafeteria more than others,” he said. “Some students would rather eat at other locations on campus with dining dollars. I think the variety helps students pick a plan they can be happy with.”