Here’s your legend: I go to the University of Alabama. Another name for it is “The Capstone.” The “CW” is the local newspaper.
Since my introduction to the Capstone, I have seen nothing short of ruthless profit mongering from the University and Dining Services. The available meal plans, introduced to us impressionable incoming freshmen at every orientation, are a deception of profiteering under the guise of affordable, healthy eating.
As quoted in an article from Wednesday’s CW, President Witt has decreed all incoming freshmen are required to purchase 160 meals per semester at the cost of $990. This translates into nine meals per week, or 6.20 per meal. One meal purchased with this meal plan at the Fresh Food Company--campus’s most expensive meal plan dining option—costs exactly .78 less than cash payment.
Now let’s take a look at Johnny McFreshman, who doesn’t possess what we’d call discretionary income. The only way he can afford to go to college is through what little scholarship money he earned, costly student loans, and that little stash kept hidden under the matress by mom and dad. Money is tight and every penny he can save is another penny towards his education.
But because Johnny is a freshman, he has to bite the bullet and purchase these nine meals a week at the beginning of his first two semesters. If Johnny eats only eight meals a week (I wonder how anyone can stomach University food more than three times a week, personally), his university-mandated meals will cost him $6.98 each. The last time I spent $7 on a hamburger, it was Grade A angus beef and didn’t sit under a heat lamp for two hours.
Now let’s say Johnny wants to eat somewhere that’s not called Fresh Food Company. If he goes to 24 Hr diner, Bama BBQ, Tortilla Fresca, or any of the University’s other dining options, Johnny’s meal is going to come to under six dollars. I visited each of these locations and totaled the cost of all possible combinations covered under a meal plan; the most expensive of which was $5.99 at Bama BBQ.
Sweet zombie Jesus! This non-refundable, non-optional, non-flexible meal plan actually makes meals more expensive! Instead of taking his cash to a Tuscaloosa business and supporting the local economy, Johnny has to walk to one of fewer than ten locations at certain times during the day and choose his slop from the heat lamps and salad bars.
To wit, the president’s proclamation that meal plans make students “better-informed” is a sensational fabrication bordering on an out and out lie. The ultimate goal of forcing students to purchase meal plans is merely to further line the University coffers by nickel and diming its student population.
But the fleecing of the student body doesn’t stop there. When Johnny was attending freshman orientation, his poverty stricken parents were hoodwinked into the Dining Dollars system, that infamous exercise in graft the Alabama Judicial system is taking a hard look at. Well, not really hoodwinked, seeing as participation in the system is obligatory. His parents forked over the extra $225, so that their Johnny would have an emergency stash to spend at University supported vendors when his personal finances got tight.
“For a mere $225,” they said, “you need never worry that your child is going hungry.”
It seems as though an unchecked altruistic concern for the welfare of the lost, innocent freshmen has relieved this administration of its common sense.
Here is my message to President Witt and Dining Services: stop slapping the student body with unnecessary fees, and we won’t have to worry that in putting us through college, our parents are going hungry for us. Let us instead first stick to the basic principals of capitalism, and ensure that those vendors we deem worthy of our hard earned $6.20 actually receive it.