In February 2021, Penn announced that current freshmen must enroll in a dining plan during their sophomore year, sparking confusion and backlash from students. For athletes, who often follow strict nutritional guidelines as part of their training, this new policy spurred conflicting opinions.
Many athletes believe one semester of the dining plan was enough to help facilitate the transition from high school to college.
“I’m not excited about it, but structure can be a good thing in some instances for some students," freshman defensive back Lawson Nash said. "I know a lot of people who don’t care for the food at the dining halls, and they eat outside of campus a lot, so I could see why having to adopt a dining plan for a second year would be less than ideal. Personally, I think dining halls are an integral college experience for students, but the experience hasn’t been the same with COVID-19. I think a lot of freshmen were okay with the dining halls in the first month of school, as it was a new transition from their experiences in high school, but I think the luster has worn off and the prospect of having another dining plan next year isn’t being celebrated.”
Others note the potential financial burden of enrolling in the dining plan again, which will cost $3,996 annually.
“I don’t think it’s fair to force students into it," Dimitri Nicholson, a freshman on the track team, said. "For me as an athlete, I appreciate having an easier way to get food, but if I wasn’t forced into it, I would not buy into another plan. That’s a lot of money that I don’t have.”
Some athletes are frustrated by the mandatory nature of the policy, including Lis Zandbergen, a freshman field hockey forward.
“I understand where the decision is coming from, but in my opinion having a dining plan as a sophomore should be optional and definitely not obligatory,” Zandbergen said.
While many see the second-year dining plan as an issue, a few athletes are excited about the program.
“I think it is fair to have a dining hall as a sophomore because it allows us to still be interactive with Penn," Gabe Wright, freshman defensive back, said. "In the fall, we missed some of the traditions of being freshmen, so I like that we are required to stay close to the University in year two as well.”
Freshman right back Chandler McGruder raised the question of the nutritional value of dining hall food.
“I’m not opposed to it, but what is given really isn’t good nutrition for athletes," McGruder said. "The protein portions are very minimal, as well as the carbs.”
Penn rowing freshman Simone Vorperian echoed reservations about the contents of dining hall food.
“I think I mostly feel frustrated. It seems pretty clear that the University made this decision for monetary gain, not students' well-being," Vorperian said. "Most of my frustration stems from the fact that I am a vegetarian, and it’s extremely challenging to get healthy and nutritious food to meet the demands of my sport. Food is something that I rely on for my success academically as well as athletically, and the dining halls have been making that success harder, not easier.”