A photo from Columbia Dining’s feedback page

Are you totally confused–and frustrated–by Barnard’s guest swipe policy for Columbia dining halls? So were we. Bwoggers Sarah Dahl and Lucy Danger did some investigating to find out the truth about guest swipes. We hope this information helps you.

Barnard students weren’t allowed to swipe guests into dining halls until this year, when emails from administrators informed us that the policy had changed.

An April 25, 2017 email to Barnard students from interim president Rob Goldberg and Dean Avis Hinkson announcing the tuition and fees for 2017-2018, noted that “in response to student concerns about food insecurity, and to encourage community building, there will be additional ‘guest’ swipes added for all meal plans.”

Another email to Barnard students from Vice President for Campus Services Gail Beltrone on September 8, 2017, announces, “This year, the College added guest swipes onto meal plans.”

But the guest swipes aren’t available on all meal plans. According to barnard.edu/dining:

“Guest Meals are included with certain meal plans and can be used at any on campus location that accepts meal swipes. Guest Meals are included with the following meal plans:
Platinum Plan – 6 guest swipes/semester, Upper Class Quad – 5 guest swipes/semester, Basic 1 – 4 guest swipes/semester, Basic 2 – 3 guest swipes/semester, Basic 3 – 2 guest swipes/semester.”

This policy was confirmed in an email from Lauren Scocozza, Barnard Food Service Director, who also noted that guest swipes “can be used at Columbia Dining halls so long as the dining hall accepts meal swipes.” Ms. Scocozza also noted that these guest swipes are “in addition to the meals included in the meal plans listed.”

Columbia Dining seemed to confirm this policy.

Kristina Hernandez, Executive Director of Marketing and Communications, told us that “Barnard students can use guest swipes in Columbia Dining locations,” and noted, “I think the number of guest swipes varies depending on the plan type.”

A December 17, 2017 question on Columbia Dining’s feedback page gives a less clear answer. A student asked, “Hi! I was just wondering if Barnard students are able to swipe guests in.” Christina Lee, Columbia Dining’s registered dietitian, replied, “Absolutely – Barnard students are allowed to swipe guests in.”

What is most frustrating about these answers is that Barnard students have consistently been unable to swipe in guests, regardless of their meal plan.
In December 2017, Megan Simmons, BC ‘21 “had two friends visiting me for the weekend and I tried to bring them to JJ’s twice, since Diana was closed. The first time, they told me I couldn’t use guest swipes so I used three of my own and it was all good. The next night we tried to do the same thing and they wouldn’t even let me use my own swipes again.”

Bwogger Sarah Dahl noted that in November, at John Jay, she was unable to swipe in a guest from NYU. Following this experience, she looked up the emails sent to Barnard students that confirmed the addition of guest swipes. Citing these emails, she submitted a complaint to Columbia Dining’s feedback page, but never received a response.

However, another Barnard first-year, Julia, has had different experiences. “I’ve had a few friends–all Barnard–swipe me into JJ’s before on guest swipes. It’s never been an issue,” she said.

We decided to test out the policies by conducting our own research at Columbia dining halls.

At John Jay, JJ’s Place, and Ferris, we found that Barnard students with any meal plan can use regular swipes on guests and can swipe in 1 guest maximum at a time. We went back at different times to see if different employees still let us do this, and the results were unanimous. Additionally, we were able to use Barnard guest swipes (i.e., not regular swipes) at JJ’s Place and Ferris, although dining hall employees were unsure whether the computer system would accept Barnard guest swipes, and seemed surprised when it did work.

At Hewitt, however, Barnard students can swipe guests in only using guest swipes, not regular swipes. So, unless you have the Platinum, Upper Class Quad, or Basic 1, 2, or 3 plans, you cannot swipe a guest into Hewitt. This excludes students with the Convenience Plan 1, 2, or 3 as well as meal block plans.

Our research shows that Columbia’s policy is more comprehensive than Barnard’s–it allows students with any type of meal plan to swipe guests in, using regular or guest swipes. But it also contradicts Barnard’s, which only allows students to use guest swipes (which are ostensibly only available on certain meal plans) to swipe in guests.

We hope Columbia’s comprehensive policy continues, and we’d like to see more unanimity and agreement between the Barnard and Columbia policies. At the very least, from now on, if someone turns you away from the dining hall, cite this article–you and your guests deserve to eat!