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Somewhere deep within the bowels of the Franklin Building, a group of Penn administrators recently decided that you're not quite intelligent enough to know when you've been had. They didn't think you'd be smart enough to realize that 17 is an excessive number of weekly trips to the dining hall, even for the most complacent of freshmen. They didn't think you'd catch on when they quietly overhauled the dining options for upperclassmen -- eliminating several popular declining options, as well as the ability to cancel a meal plan at the mid-year point. Worst of all, they didn't think you'd mind when they made all of their changes behind your back. Maybe they thought that by keeping quiet, they'd be able to slip the new rules in without anyone noticing. Perhaps they thought that the upcoming summer break would provide a lull during which you just wouldn't be motivated to respond. Whatever the reason, the University's dining changes reflect a number of flawed assumptions about Penn students and the lengths to which they are willing to accept mandates from above -- even on the most seemingly mundane of topics. For one, the changes reflect an attempt to simply erase Dining Services' spring financial shortcomings. And students who have become used to accepting whatever fee or tuition increase the University throws at them are going to be penalized once again. What's more, the administration's deliberate decision to remove the undergraduate Dining Advisory Board from discussions on the new policy amounts to a lot more than poor decision-making: It's outright deception. When news of the new freshman meal requirement broke last week, students responded with almost universal criticism of Penn's cavalier business practices. When news of the new upperclassman terms broke a little later, reaction was similar. We hoped that those backlashes would force the University's dining decision-makers to reconsider their changes -- thus reestablishing some degree of trust between Penn's business side and the students it serves. As of now, however, it appears that no such adjustments will be made. And if all goes according to plan, students will be forced to swallow the new conditions with no opportunity to respond. That's an unconscionable scenario -- one no student should accept. As such, we believe that upperclassmen should make a statement with the one undeniable tool still left to their disposal: they should forgo their 2001-2002 meal plans. This will remind Penn administrators that muffled practices of deception are unacceptable -- and especially unacceptable in an enclosed community like ours. It will remind the University's business leaders that their market is not a guaranteed one; and that students ultimately have the final say over what they eat and where they eat it. It will remind Penn's hierarchy that student issues must always be discussed with students. And, oh yes, it will remind the University's administrators that Penn students are in fact a fairly intelligent group -- and all-too aware of when they are being had.

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