EDITORIAL: Dining Services’ policy causes stomach ache

As the Daily Kent Stater reported last week, some students believe that food prices on campus, particularly in the convenience stores, are too high. The argument for the high prices is that they are a reflection of the convenience of, in some cases, never having to leave the building you live in to get a box of Cheerios. While this may be true, there still exists an inequity in mandatory board plans that can only be spent in the monopolized economy on campus.

The first point to understand is just what constitutes a monopoly. For those who remember the board game, that definition will suffice. Simply put, it’s owning an entire market and then inflating prices to gain greater profits at the expense of a consumer who has no other options. While the on-campus dining is not a pure monopoly (as students do have the option of spending their own money wherever they please), it is still a practical monopoly.

The second important point is that freshmen and sophomore students are required to live on campus (unless they meet certain dire financial conditions or live in close enough proximity to be considered a commuter student). These students also must purchase the university board plan, which, at its least expensive, is $1,200 according to the Dining Services Web site. The money can be transferred between the fall and spring semester, but not from one academic school year to the next. Any funds left over will automatically be forfeited to Dining Services.

This editorial board believes that slight revisions to the board plan policy would create more equitable conditions for students.

First, students should be allowed to spend one-third of their board plan as FlashCash, which is different from the board plan, as it acts as a debit card to 31 on- and off-campus establishments. This translates to $400 of the basic board plan out of $1,300 allocated for any of those 31 establishments, including seven pizza places that deliver. While this plan still doesn’t account for Dining Services creating a practical monopoly, it does, at least a third of the way, force them to compete with prices beyond their own constructed economy. This idea also doesn’t mean students must spend this money on off-campus locations, but they may do so.

The benefits are many and include enhancing relations with the city, as now students would be putting more money into the community. It also further helps students learn to budget their funds, which was one of the reasons Eugene Walters, Dining Services marketing manager, cited as a benefit to the board plan.

The down side – as those who wish to maintain this monopoly will be quick to point out – is that students may waste that money on parking tickets, gasoline or cigarettes. Yet this editorial board sees money management as an essential component to adulthood and does not wish to see the university spoon-feed freshmen in this manner.

The other revision would be to let students’ money transfer between academic school years, at least for freshmen who are becoming sophomores. If the plan remains mandatory, the least the university can do is allow students to save a little if they can rather than wasting it all on 50 bags of beef jerky at the end of spring semester.

There is a feeling of greed beneath the surface of the board plan policy and only through revisions will the students best be served.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.