NewsFebruary 11, 2022
Many students have begun voicing their frustrations with the proposed changes to meal plans, in which Chartwells will change how the meal system works, as well as add and take away specific dining facilities.
story image illustation
Graphic by Emma Kratky

Many students have begun voicing their frustrations with the proposed changes to meal plans, in which Chartwells will change how the meal system works, as well as add and take away specific dining facilities.

The plans presented during the Feb. 7 Student Government Association (SGA) meeting included a change to a “block meals” system, eliminating meal swipes. With the proposed new plan, flex dollars will be the main focus of the plans, and chain restaurants like Starbucks, Panda Express, Subway and Chick-Fil-A will only be available through the use of flex dollars.

There will no longer be a buffet option for students, and guest meals will no longer be available.

Chartwells said their motivation for making these changes was to provide a simpler system for students, as well as reduce the amount of waste within the current meal plan.

SEMO students said they felt like they were left out of the decision-making process.

Survey statistics

Sophomore Connor McElwee said he has concerns about the way Chartwells collected and sampled their data that they gathered on the amount of money lost with the current meal plan system.

SEMO currently has more than 10,000 students, but in the Chartwell’s survey, they questioned 22 students, all of which were resident assistants (RA).

According to SEMO’s description of the Resident Assistant position, RAs receive both a dorm room and meal plan in return for working for the school. This means they would not have to purchase any meal plan, since it is provided by the school directly.

“An appropriate sample size if you wanted a 90% confidence interval and 10% margin of error on 10,000 students is 68, which is three times what they used. Their sample also wasn’t diverse — it was RAs, who have their meals paid for,” McElwee said.

McElwee said Chartwells reported the 22 RAs lost 45 meals in total. He said this would only add up to two meals lost per person, which isn’t necessarily a large waste of money.

Financial motivation

Another common opinion circulating on social media platforms like Facebook and Yik Yak is that the decision to change the meal plan was for financial gain for both the Chartwells program and Southeast Missouri State University.

Biology sophomore Wren Simkins said they have looked into Chartwells prior to this issue arising and felt negatively about Chartwells overall.

“They have to keep profits up, and they do that by keeping costs down, and it costs money to feed us better-quality food. Cutting down the amount of options that are available and the amount of food each person gets keeps profits up,” Simkins said.

Another student, Jaina Bemis, said she also feels like the Chartwells decision was for financial reasons.

“I do believe that this is a financial gain move, considering that this kind of plan has been implemented at schools where, it looks to me, that they care more about the financial gain than about student’s comfort and needs,” Bemis said.

Dietary Choices

Many students are also opposed to the new meal plan proposal due to its requirement that students must buy a protein and three sides with block meals.

Simkins, a vegetarian, said they feel they and many others will be extremely limited if the proteins enforced are meats or non-vegan items.

“Chartwells is notorious for cutting vegetarian options, and with this new plan, I probably will not be able to eat,” Simkins said.

Student choice

Students feel like decisions were made for them without their input.

Education freshman Lizzy Hall said there are many possible solutions to fixing the current meal plan instead of overhauling the entire system.

“If you're really concerned that students are wasting money on their meals, then maybe you should give them other options for buying, like five meals a week instead of 10, instead of just taking away an entire plan that’s already pretty good,” Hall said.

Hall also said she feels Chartwells’ definition of waste is different from a student's definition.

“If students are wasting money, that's their money to waste,” Hall said.

Student response

In protest to the new changes, students have signed a petition to change the new meal plan proposal.

More than 1,000 students have currently signed the petition, and many have stated their opinions in the comment section.

One commenter, Josh Neighbors, stated his feelings about the new changes.

“I am signing because this plan does not fully consider the financial independence of students, the dietary restrictions of some students and blatantly disregards the wants and needs of the student body,” Neighbors said.

Story Tags