Listerites hungry for more consultation for proposed meal plan

I was one of the table thumpers mentioned in an article from the Edmonton Journal about the December 16 Board of Governors meeting. I thumped because I wasn’t allowed to scream, “HECK YES.”

Lister residents were relieved when the Board of Governors meeting last week (barely) rejected the new $4,285 or $4,650 “all-you-can-eat” meal plan for Lister. Seven voted in favour, citing that this plan had to go through before next year. Facilities & Operations cannot run deficits and the new plan was a way to avoid that issue. Seven voted against, recognizing that the plan just wasn’t ready. The proposal did not address many long-standing student concerns, such as affordability and flexibility.

Although many Listerites might be concerned, there are still a lot of misconceptions about this style of meal plan. This plan is not evil incarnate. The main hopes in bringing forward an “all-you-can-eat” plan are that it could improve food quality, enhance dining hours, and ensure no one is ever running out of funds on their meal plan before the end of the year.

However, there are some major flaws with this plan. First, it’s expensive. Most first years not only struggle to make it to the end of the year academically, but also financially. There are also only murky details on where food will be available on campus. Another issue is that the new meal plan may overwhelm facilities in Lister. Before the proposal is voted on again, there needs to be more opportunity to involve residents.

As a third-year resident, I won’t be using this meal plan next year because I’m getting out of here. But if I were questioning coming back, I would probably opt out of living here if the current proposed meal plan was passed. It isn’t a good fit for most residents. Current residents should assist the creation of this plan because it’s for people who will be in our position next year. We can anticipate the issues, like a lack of flexibility and affordability, and work to find resolutions so future first-years and returners can have a positive experience in Lister.

Listerites need to get informed and involved as soon as possible so they can provide constructive criticism on this proposal. We should be consulted because legitimate conversation on the meal plan needs to happen. The people proposing this plan and the people who will utilize this plan need to be willing and wanting to speak to one another. That’s the best way to reach a consensus on this proposal.

“This plan is not perfect” was said over and over again during the BoG meeting. I’m sorry, but I think we need a perfect solution if we are going to apply an entirely foreign meal plan system to all of Lister.

We need to work together so we can ensure it won’t limit the residence experience. We can work together if residents are given the opportunity to listen to a breakdown of this plan from those proposing it and respectfully forward our concerns afterwards.

The five years of consultation up until now has not been enough. Five years of having dialogue with students doesn’t matter if it’s only been through ineffective methods like open houses that only attract 15 people at a time. Five years of working with students doesn’t matter if residents cannot tangibly see how their feedback has shaped the plan. Five years of discussion doesn’t matter when nine out of 10 residents still opposed the new meal plan proposal back in October.

The next time this meal plan goes to the Board, it will likely get voted through. So, we need to make sure this becomes a better plan that is shaped by a whole heck of a lot of student feedback. Conversely, if we chose to not support the plan, we need to voice our concerns in an educated way and prove why this isn’t fair to students.

I hope Facilities & Operations and Ancillary Services are excited to get another opportunity to work with students on this meal plan. After all, this is a university — you’re going to have to talk to students because there are a lot of us here.

We can shape this plan into what we need or ditch it altogether. The important part is the ‘we.’ Although it sounds like I’m envisioning us all holding hands and singing “Kumbaya,” I’m not that naive. This will be arduous and there will be unsolvable disputes. But I can assure you it’ll be better than 1,600 residents angrily protesting a meal plan being forced upon them after five years of ineffective consultation.

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