The Georgetown University Student Association Senate unanimously passed a resolution demanding cheaper meal plan options for all undergraduate students at an Aug. 29 meeting.
The resolution also called on the university to allow juniors and seniors to be exempt from meal plan requirements with a refund of their meal plan charges, as well as resolve the long lines, overcrowding and lack of food options at Leo J. O’Donovan Dining Hall.
The current meal plan policy, first announced by the university in June, requires all students living on campus to enroll in a meal plan, except for seniors living off campus. First-years and sophomores are limited to the most expensive All Access 7 Plan, which allows for unlimited meal swipes at Leo’s and costs $3,260. The new university policy differs from prior years, where underclassmen could enroll in the cheaper meal plan that includes 14 meals per week and costs $2,978. Additionally, junior and senior students were not required to enroll in a plan in prior years.
According to GUSA Senate Vice Speaker Rowlie Flores (COL ’22), who introduced the resolution, the new requirements are a burden on students’ finances.
“Meal plans at Georgetown, in general, are very expensive, and if you are a freshman or a sophomore, this means spending $3,200 on a meal plan that you’re not likely going to use to its full extent,” Flores said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya. “Essentially, it is just a line cost to the tuition. It’s like paying for a service you’re not going to use.”
Students can apply for a meal plan exemption if they have religious or medical dietary restrictions. However, students who have dietary preferences such as vegan or vegetarian diets will not be considered for exemptions.
Georgetown introduced the new requirements to improve students’ food access, according to a university spokesperson.
“To support and promote a healthy living and learning community where all students thrive, we offer a number of nutritious, flexible and affordable meal plan options for students on campus and, this year, we are introducing a new meal requirement for all students living on campus,” the university spokesperson wrote in an email to the Hoya. “We have seen a significant increase in student-reported satisfaction with the program across the board, including in variety and quality.”
Due to reduced hours for several dining options on campus, students have experienced long lines outside of Leo’s and other dining spots, as well as congestion inside during meal times.
According to Flores, the meal policy does little to improve food insecurity and exacerbates existing problems, such as overcrowding in Leo’s.
“I think it is an awfully implemented policy in general. I know that the rationale behind it is to solve food insecurity on campus, but I think it has an opposite effect and is causing food insecurity,” Flores said. “You have 5,000 students now required to go to Leo’s to just eat, and I think having one dining hall that serves 5,000 students is not sustainable.”
Senator Dominic Gordon (SFS ’24) also said that in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, overcrowding in the indoor dining hall poses a health risk to both students and workers.
“We have problems with Leo’s, we have problems with food, and I really think that even if we aren’t talking about food insecurity, getting Leo’s to be less crowded might be better with COVID and I think this is legislation that is desperately needed,” Gordon said at the meeting.
The university enforced a similar meal plan policy in January, requiring all on-campus students to purchase the All Access 7 meal plan, despite financial and dietary concerns raised by students. This decision came amid the COVID-19 pandemic, when the university provided housing for roughly 500 students who did not have other options for stable housing.
The GUSA resolution urges the university to alleviate the long lines outside of Leo’s and several other dining options on campus, as well as food shortages and technical issues with the GrubHub app, an option students can use to order ahead and pick up food instead of eating inside.
According to the resolution, the long lines at the dining hall — which stretched all the way to Cooper Field — pose issues for students with dietary restrictions and allergies and add to the significant number of students already facing food insecurity on campus.
“Students have experienced long lines into the dining hall, which extend alongside McCarthy Hall and into Cooper Field, and as a result, have also expressed concerns regarding a lack of options for students with dietary restrictions and allergies,” the resolution reads.
The GUSA Senate plans to meet with the university to discuss reversing the meal plan policy and is hopeful for change, according to Flores.
“We hope to have a meeting scheduled this week or earlier next week because this is a crucial issue that needs to be solved immediately,” Flores said. “I would say I am pretty optimistic. This is something that occurred in the past and was solved fairly quickly. I honestly think that it can be resolved as quickly as an email being sent out to students.”