NIU dining options set to change and could cause more incovenience than anything else

By Lisa Lillianstrom

Students will soon have their options limited, as NIU dining services have introduced a new plan for the 2019-2020 academic year. The plan has parts about it that are very frustrating as there aren’t many options for residents that don’t have a lot of money.

There are two plans students can get: the Huskie Block Plan and the Huskie Classic Plan. The Classic Plan is included in the cost of residential housing. With the Block Plan, students get 12 meals per week with 20 to 40 Flex Dollars allowing them to eat at more locations and take meals to-go at the dining halls. This plan can be used at all of the dining halls.

In the new version of the Classic Plan, students can eat at all dining halls except Stevenson and the only way students will be able to eat at Stevenson is through flex dollars.“The residents of New HalI, Neptune and Gilbert are not affected by the change,” Lauren Anhalt, junior elementary education major, said. “They can already eat as much as they want where they live, so the Huskie Block plan has no real benefit for them.The only people who might pay more are the residents of Stevenson because it’s the only way for them to use their dining hall.”

Along with the new plan, Stevenson will be renovated into a new retail style dining facility, said Dan Koenen,  Executive Director of Campus Services. There will be a sandwich station, a Huskie grill and other possible retail style venues for students to choose from. To purchase food at these new places, students can use Flex Dollars, credit cards or an exchange of the meals that come with the Block Plan. Students will also be able to order online through an app for pick-up or delivery.

“If you’re on the Block Plan you can eat in a retail location, you can do meal exchange and you have flex dollars,” Koenen said. “Surveys show students want more choices, want to eat in a more retail setting and want to take food to go. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

While this may seem like a good plan for some students for others it is not the greatest idea. If students chose the Block Plan they get twelve meals a week which is not enough, they run the risk of running out of meals, because not everyone plans when they want to eat sometimes it’s at the last minute.

Residents should not be charged extra just to eat at their own hall, and the fact that students have to pay more to eat at their own hall is ridiculous.

“I just think it doesn’t make any sense,” junior geography major Lukasz Switaj said.  “They want to charge nearly $300 to eat at one extra place, plus takeout. I chose to live at Stevenson because it is very close to parking and the dining hall. I have minor Cerebral Palsy, and it is hard for me to walk long distances. Now I’ll have to drive to look for an alternative place to eat dinner.”

If the new plan is the same price as the original plan and money is an issue for some students, they might not even get the new plan.

The new plan is not cheaper than the classic plan it is basically paying more just to eat less.

“If they are going to keep the unlimited meal plan and the block plan the same price, nobody is going to sign up for it, especially in Stevo where we don’t have enough hours to go in three times a day,” David Fischer sophomore manufacturing engineering technology major said.

There have also been concerns about the weather getting bad especially in the winter. If the weather gets to be hard to walk in then the residents of Stevenson don’t really have any options. No one should expect students to walk to New Hall in a blizzard or below freezing weather.

“What if this changes where students want to live, and [they] can’t afford anywhere else or have to live in Stevenson due to a medical issue or impairment?” Kiera Donnamario, junior secondary education major, said. “Stevenson is one of the most heavily populated residence halls on campus.”

This Block Plan limits everyone specifically students in Stevenson. While the Classic Plan is included with the room charge, the Block Plan is an additional cost to the room rate. While students have the option to upgrade to the Block Plan, students still shouldn’t have to pay to get food in their own residence hall.

One solution that dining should consider is letting students on unlimited into a test period and see if the Block Plan is something for them rather than making them sign up for something and wasting money if it doesn’t work for them.

“We would have residents who have unlimited who may want to eat at this dining hall but they can’t because they aren’t on that meal ticket plan,” first-year chemistry major James Holmes said. “Finding a way to keep the unlimited meal plan for students who already have something here and then offer this transitional one [plan] would probably help a lot.”

Students aren’t the only ones frustrated with the new plan. Parents are also annoyed students have to pay extra to eat in Stevenson.

There are parents who pay for their kids to go to NIU, and it isn’t fair for the parents to not have an input on this.

“As a parent, do you think this is fair for the parents who are paying for their kids to come to NIU?” Debbie Anhalt, mother of Lauren Anhalt, said  “Not at all. When you pay room and board, you expect certain things to be included. When you exclude my child from being able to take advantage of the dining hall in her own dorm without paying an extra charge, that is a problem. Students in the other dorms are able to utilize their dining halls without an extra fee. That in itself is completely unfair.”

Stevenson is the only hall in which Residents have to spend money just to eat where they live.

“For future semesters, I hope Housing and Dining take student input into consideration before dropping something that could really affect how a student is going to live on campus at NIU,” Donnamario said.

Stevenson residents are getting screwed over in the long run, because not everyone has money to get flex dollars so they have to rely on the classic plan as it already comes with the residence hall charge.

Either way, depending on the student’s situation there are no winners in this change because no matter what students lose something in the end.

“My daughter has no good options,” Debbie Anhalt said. “Either she stays with the ‘classic’ plan and can’t eat at her own dorm, or she pays extra money but runs the risk of running out of meals. Neither dining plan gives me peace of mind as a parent, which is something I should be able to expect when I pay tuition.”