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Guess What? The Meal Plan Isn’t All That Popular

As you may have heard, Barnard officially announced required meal plans for all students starting next semester year.  Initial support for the measure seemed low, so we went on a hunt to find students who were excited about it. We searched high and low, but found not one student willing to praise the plan. What we heard instead:

  • Embry Owen, BC ’12 — “[W]hy was the larger Barnard community not asked for their input? This lack of transparency is unacceptable.”
  • Cait Levin, BC ’12 — “I doubt that Financial Aid will be taking the higher cost of meal plans and points into consideration when evaluating student need.”
  • Victoria Steffes, BC ’12 — “The 800 points that will be required for sophomores is absolutely outrageous. … There is no way they will be able to go through 800 points unless they are giving away their food to the homeless.”
  • Katie Palillo, BC ’10 SGA President — “We’re currently in discussion with the administration on how this will affect students…in an effort to make sure the administration is considering all facets of the discussion.”
  • Anna Scaife, BC ’11 — “There may be a wider variety of options available at the Diana, but that doesn’t negate the objections of students who do not wish to eat there.”

No luck there.  Owen has created a Facebook group against the new meal plan and, as of posting, it had 331 members.

Most students’ complaints are about the lack of transparency in the decision process.  Columbia has recently announced changes coming to its dining operations but has clearly stated that the purpose is to keep locations such as Ferris Booth open.  However, Dean Denburg’s email merely suggested that the decision was made to “build community,” a claim that rang false to many commenters.  Here’s what they had to say:

  • “The very least they can do is be honest about it.”
  • “If you want to pay $2.25 for a cup of coffee, go for it Dean Denburg.  Don’t make me do it.”
  • “The tone of the email outraged and insulted me.”
  • “There may be a wider variety of options available at the Diana, but that doesn’t negate the objections of students who do not wish to eat there.”
  • “I don’t think that people here are angry about having a new student center to eat in… [but] the fact that we’re going to have no choice BUT to eat in that student center.”
  • “Everyone can agree that on-campus food is generally overpriced.”

No one we spoke to was in favor of the plan, but a few commenters tried to be reasonable:

  • “If you don’t like what the students [leadership involved with the decision] decided, then…maybe you should vote in SGA elections.”
  • “Many peer institutions have required meal plans for all four years, so this isn’t the craziest idea in the world.”
  • “The administration should have shown us more respect and explained the reasoning behind this decision … [but] there’s no need to make broad generalizations about the entire college based on one decision. The administration will have to respond to the outcry, and hopefully we will have more answers soon.”

Even for students who understand that Barnard needs to find a way to cover budget shortfalls, most are upset that this was not explained to them clearly.  They see the “community” line as a euphemism to cover for decisions that lack an agreeable explanation, and they want the Barnard administration to be more forthcoming about the reasoning for this new plan.

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  • what on earth says:

    @what on earth will all of the anorexics do?! this is an outrage!

  • i think says:

    @i think this is because Barnard’s trying to regain itself from its #30 college rankings, hopefully this gets them into the top 20

    1. Look, says:

      @Look, I don’t know who you are, but you need to get over Barnard’s #30 ranking.

  • wait a sec... says:

    @wait a sec... starting next semester not next academic year???!

  • i worked for financial aid says:

    @i worked for financial aid and look i got to be honest, you were told from the beginning Barnard is a need-based school so do not complain if you don’t get financial aid. I’m very sorry but the people who do get financial aid are people who truly deserve it. Such as one case I saw where the parents are unemployed (not by choice), and own no property whatsoever, there would be no way that girl could afford an institution like Barnard without financial aid. You were told before you applied that this school was going to just look at your taxes. If you wanted merit based aid, you should have gone somewhere else. and if Barnard is so expensive, maybe you will have to go somewhere else but I believe you can get the same exact education anywhere; the only thing you are paying for is the name and networks. sorry if that sounds a little too harsh but i do believe that.

    All said, financial aid does take into account how much food costs whether or not you are on the meal plan. You would only know this if you get financial aid because in the list of things it includes is board, travel, books, groceries and such.

    I don’t like this required meal plan either but do not hate on things like financial aid because its honestly not their fault; its the government, state, city and school regulations that control the level of financial aid. most of it is out of their hands.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Woah, overreaction much?

      And people can say what they want about Barnard’s rankings, but talk to your friends about their experiences at other schools. They’re hardly getting the same exact education that people at this school are.

    2. fin aid says:

      @fin aid let me tell you a little something about barnard’s so called “need-based aid”

      according to the federal government, my efc was 0$….. barnard, on the other hand, thinks i should be paying full tuition. my sister who goes to yale only has to pay 2000 dollars a year. barnard’s need based aid is a joke.

      1. curious says:

        @curious Okay, I’m honestly curious. You must have received your financial aid information before you decided to go to Barnard (unless, of course, you applied early decision, which is not a smart move if financial aid is a concern). Why did you come here if you were so unhappy with your financial aid? It doesn’t make sense to me. In my personal situation, it worked out because Barnard was one of my top choices and I received more grant money from then than other institutions where I was accepted. However, if Barnard had offered me less, I probably would have chosen to go elsewhere. Unless Financial Aid has significantly reduced your aid since first year, I don’t see what the problem is. Is there some other major factor I’m missing?

        1. Wow says:

          @Wow This is such a great representation of the people who go to this school. Why don’t we all try to sound a little less pretentious?

          1. Um says:

            @Um Please kindly gtfo.

        2. fin aid says:

          @fin aid i applied early and thought they would help me out bc barnard is need based aid lol. also i was brainwashed by the world think i would get a better education at a liberal arts/ivy league school than i would at a state college, so i thought it would be worth it. i didn’t want all my hard work in high school to go to waste. however, this was wrong because so far, barnard has not been worth it. i’m basically just relearning everything i already knew from high school/reading for enjoyment.

      2. Opinion says:

        @Opinion Barnard is not Yale. It is a small liberal arts college. To compare it to a large research university is unfair. Most financial aid funds come from the endowment and alumnae giving. Barnard just doesn’t have that history. Honestly they do the best they can. If they gave as much financial aid as other schools they would be bankrupt.

        1. fin aid says:

          @fin aid not comparing like that. i understand that they have different endowments. just saying that they are both need based, but barnard didn’t offer any help at all.

  • cc'10 commiserater says:

    @cc'10 commiserater thank you ms. tangential.

  • i worked for financial aid says:

    @i worked for financial aid my point is if you can’t afford it; then you will have to take out loans and such and i understand you want the education here but that’s your decision to take out the loans. no one is forcing you to come to this school.

    i understand how the experiences can be different but the textbooks are mostly all the same. everyone is learning the same things.

  • i worked for financial aid says:

    @i worked for financial aid also you have to remember other schools have huge endowments so they can provide merit and need based aid; Barnard is not as lucky. Barnard clearly said it was need based and you may get what you may get but I’m sure you knew the costs of coming to this school before you accepted.

  • i worked for financial aid says:

    @i worked for financial aid But I just like you don’t like this required meal plan idea. It comes at the worse time financially for families. Aside from the fact that next year tuition and room are likely to go up as well.

  • i think says:

    @i think you guys are just mad you go to a subpar institution but get the same degree?

    1. hey says:

      @hey well spotted. that is EXACTLY why we’re mad. this meal plan has nothing whatsoever to do with our disgruntlement.

      ahh, the intellectual superiority of columbia students always does bowl my silly barnard mind over.

  • could you honestly says:

    @could you honestly stop with the barnard hating. tons of columbia students both men and women take courses at barnard and have those count toward their degree so why must you make the distinction? we are all part of the same university system. get over it.

  • Don says:

    @Don not to mention there are some dumbass people at columbia. really. dumb. people.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous This comment feed has tapered off into irrelevance. Again.

  • Barnard wanted to bring us together... says:

    @Barnard wanted to bring us together... but this is just tearing us apart!!

    can’t we all just get along?

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