For many students looking to convert their meal swipes to dining dollars at the end of the spring semester, the requirement that students must commit to a dining plan the following year can be a financial burden.
To convert up to 30 meal swipes to Dining Dollars, students are required to sign up for a meal plan for the next year. During the swipe conversion period, which ran from April 3 to 17 this year, students could exchange each meal swipe for $4.87 in Dining Dollars. Although many students criticized the policy and called it unjust, administrators stood by the practice.
“I get why they’re doing it this way, but I don’t think it’s moral,” College freshman Rachael Villari said.
Villari said she understands that the goal is to incentivize students to purchase dining plans again, but that Penn Dining should offer quality and affordable options as a better incentive. She added that it would be a financial burden for her to pay for a dining plan again.
“Financially burdened students can’t afford a dining plan next year. There is no way I personally could afford another dining plan next year, because I know I would just spend so much less finding food on my own," Villari said. "I think this is so unfair to the kids who aren’t fortunate enough to comfortably afford that."
Chavin said it is unjust that two people can pay the same amount of money this year for the same plan and get a different service.
“It’s pretty unfair, because we’re all paying the same amount of money this year, so why should we get a different deal?” College freshman Sabine Chavin said.
Pam Lampitt, director of Business Services and Hospitality Services, wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian that swipe conversion was introduced several years ago as an added benefit to existing plans.
"We had received feedback that some students have unused swipes. We offer it to all students in the fall because we recognize that freshmen during their first semester are still learning how to best utilize their plans," Lampitt wrote.
"In the second semester, we offer swipe conversion to students who plan to purchase a dining plan next year. It is a promotion, similar to the price freeze that we also offer to encourage students to sign up for a dining plan," she wrote.
Lampitt added that dining plans for highly aided freshmen are covered under financial aid and that upperclassmen students have the option of choosing plans that are majority or entirely Dining Dollars.
Despite Penn Dining's stance that the swipe conversion is an added benefit, students say they still believe that Penn Dining's business practices are unfair.
“You shouldn’t run a school dining hall like you’re trying to make a huge profit off of it,” Chavin said. "You can’t survive off of the Dining Dollar plan alone, and they know that. It shows how little they care about what we’re eating.”