The recent Board of Governors meeting of March 16 has ruffled a few feathers in the university community. Scratch that. It’s ruffled a lot of feathers. There were four major developments at the meeting: overall budget cuts, increasing rent in residence, increasing international student tuition and the implementation of the infamous “all-you-can-eat” meal plan at Lister Hall. These changes have caused a notable rift between the student body and the university administration, prompting protests and a plethora of #UofANotOkay signs.
I understand that cutting the overall university budget and then increasing rent and international student tuition is like rubbing salt into a wound. The reality is, the University of Alberta has an almost $14 million structural deficit, and that $14 million isn’t going to pay back itself. It’s unfortunate that we have to be the generation of students that have to pick up the tab, but if we don’t, the next generation of students is going to be faced with an even bigger bill. To avoid having to increase fees to cover deficits, I think it’s best the U of A, and universities in general for that matter, keep a balanced budget even when that has undesirable consequences.
In regards to the meal plan, I’m one of the few Lister residents who’s okay with it.
I think the current Lister meal plan is very poorly set up and doesn’t encourage healthy eating. Right now, the meal plan is a credit system; you use your funds to purchase items from the cafeteria or from the Marina, a sort of convenience store below the cafeteria. The issue is, there are a lot of problems with pricing and serving sizes. For example, it’s cheaper to go down to the Marina and get a serving of french fries than it is to buy a fruit cup. A lot of the entrees in the cafeteria are overpriced and contain mainly meat and bread with little to no vegetables. Throughout the year I’ve had to spend a lot of money on groceries just so I can have a proper amount of fruits and vegetables because its borderline unaffordable to get your proper servings of greens from the meal plan. With the new meal plan, residents will be able to eat as much as they want of whatever they want without having to worry about their meal plan balance. This will encourage residents to make better diet choices; you’ll no longer need to weight the pros and cons of spending $1 on a single apple. Furthermore, the current meal plan has caused Dining Services to run a $211,000 deficit; it clearly doesn’t work financially, and in my opinion it doesn’t work practically either.
I think it’s fair to assume no one is happy about having to pay even more for the already expensive undertaking that is post-secondary education. Some people seem to think the university is shaking students down like some ruthless company just because they can. I think this a bit of an overreaction. There is by no doubt a level of bureaucracy involved in the university administration, but I’m not willing to just jump on the student-heavy bandwagon and point fingers at the Board of Governors.
We need to remember to look at the bigger picture: the U of A is in a financial hole and we need to get out of it sooner rather than later. Like most students, I’m not happy about these changes, but I’ve come to acknowledge them as a necessary evil. Someone might say that I’m placing too much faith in the university administration, and maybe they’d be right. As a student, it’s hard to see through the fog and determine how justifiable these changes are. For now I’m placing my trust in the Board of Governors, I just really hope they don’t let me and the rest of the student body down.