MCSG survey responses highlight broad interest in meal plan reform

By Annie Lewine

Macalester spends thousands of dollars each year on a variety of campus programs and initiatives. Through a survey recently sent to all students, Macalester College Student Government (MCSG) has begun collecting input from students on how they think that money should be spent.MCSG members involved with administering the survey said they are satisfied with the response and the input they have received thus far. According to MCSG President Jess Hasken ’07, the survey was sent to students living both on and off campus via e-mail and had questions on issues ranging from academics to meal plans.

“We asked about…a broad variety of topics,” Hasken said.

The survey is meant to provide information for student input that will be presented to and then considered by the Task Force on the Macalester Budget. Last year MCSG sought to put two voting students on the Task Force as well as one voting student on the Board of Trustees. Unable to gain that student representation, MCSG was, as a compromise, given the opportunity to present the task force with student opinions before the group made decisions about the budget.

“It was decided that during fall semester there would be time for student input,” Hasken said. “The survey was useful to find out about different areas on campus that students care about.”

The survey was also meant to address issues students perceive as problems on campus. Residence Halls, for example, have been unable to fill all of their beds with students in recent years. The empty beds pose a problem for the college as revenue is lost when students opt to live off-campus and do not pay room and board fees, said Franz Meyer ’09, a member of the MCSG legislative body and one of the students who drafted the survey.

“We asked questions to find out why this was happening and what are ways we can make life on campus better,” Meyer said. “So we asked about how we could change the meal plan, questions about allowing juniors and seniors to pick rooms in Wallace, and other things like that.”

Meyer indicated that many student expressed an interest in changing current meal plan options in the survey. Dining services currently offers three meal plan options for students living on campus—one includes 19 meals per week in Café Mac, another includes 14 meals and 75 flex dollars for use at the Grille, and the last alternative offers 12 meals per week with 150 flex dollars.

MCSG’s Student Services Commission (SSC) has been working to propose different meal plan options.

“By putting it on the survey it really reinforced what we had to say—the meal plan has to be changed,” Meyer said.

Despite attempts to include all students, both on and off campus, many students do not recall ever receiving the survey.

“I never got any survey,” said Courtney Rivers ’08, who lives off campus. “I do have a lot to say though—I’m still connected to campus, I spend a lot of time here.”

When asked about the survey, Katherine Steiner ’09, a resident of 30 Mac, was puzzled. “Wait, what survey? I never got one,” she said.

Although some students were unable to give their input on the issues raised, about 500 students—more than a quarter of Macalester students, including those currently studying abroad—responded to the survey.

“It was great because we got a wide sampling for the survey,” said Meyer. “It was a pretty even distribution over the grades meaning a lot of off-campus students responded.”